Niagara River 1965 by Julie A. Dickson

Unknown group having a picnic in Queen Victoria Park, Niagara Falls, July, 1927 From the Niagara Parks Commission Collection, Niagara Falls Public Library

Forceful rush of water, loud
flowing toward the precipice,
I stood alongside the grassy edge
of the Niagara River, shoes kicked off,
toes independently investigating
blades of grass and dandelions.

Standing away from a blanket
spread with our wicker picnic
basket, cloth napkins and cooler,
my mother’s eyes were shadowed
behind dark glasses, but I knew
they were on me and the wild
river behind, the smell of
a steel plant, an acrid invasion
to mingle odors with moisture filled air.

So close to the water, she shook her head
when I begged to wade, not knowing
the demon force would sweep
a child away like so many memories.

We picnicked with a game
of brightly colored rings, tossed
to my father and to my brother
who leapt up to catch the red one.
My mother sedentary  in contrast to
the activity of family games
beside the raging river.

Julie A. Dickson
Niagara River 1965 written 2018, previously unpublished.

Julie A. Dickson is originally from Buffalo, NY. Her father’s family was from Guelph and Vineland Station, Ontario, Canada in the late 1800’s, they founded the Culverhouse Canning Factory there. Dickson lived near Lake Erie and Niagara Falls until her early teens, when her family relocated to Massachusetts. Always the lakes-girls, her poems often reflect in memories of Lakes Ontario and Erie, and visiting the falls. Her poems appears in many journals including Ekphrastic ReviewMisfitOpen Door and others; full length works on Amazon. Dickson has been a guest editor, past poetry board member, is an advocate for captive elephants and shares her home with two rescued cats.

Julie A. Dickson was the guest editor of the Ekphrastic Review challenge to write a poem inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s painting Niagara, 1857. See a page about ekphrastic poetry, including the poems from the Ekphrastic Review

Looking at Church’s Niagara Falls on the Web
by Lucie Chou

Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

Niagara is a revelation of the cosmos to each and every man.
 — David C. Huntington
Sure, I’ll breathe poetry there. My mind will be an embouchure
through which your powerful waters pour thunder. I will hear
nothing else, not the sharp sound waves spearing my bellows, 
nor honeymooners whose croons you swallow into white foam
and spew out as a shimmering arch of rainbow. You’ll teach me
about the cosmos by proving the paradox of water in motion:
that its motion is a stillness, that its stillness is ever in motion.
My body will be a speck of silence swallowed by your howling
emerald olivine chrysoberyl pale blue ice snowy pinnacles,
your ten-thousand-year-old ceaselessly cataracting avalanche,
your constant breath ever billowing through one diapason,
yet not one prism in your mist ever splits light the same way.
Like that bared jagged root snagged on your brink, I’d abide
inside your relentless remaking. Eyes on a digital or hands 
on a canvas covered with smooth strokes would never equal 
the whole of me, mind, body, heart and soul, all immersed 
in the whole of your eloquence greater even than my whole 
world, you patient shale-shaper, finale of the Niagara River, 
you Ice Age’s fossil water, you rhapsody of ancient glaciers
ever burgeoning into new birth, you under whose arcades
lovers sport crowned with bright sprays, you whose sheer
impetus splashes the sun’s and moon’s incandescent faces,
I keep calling you Whirlpool, Horseshoe, Luna Falls, Iris Falls
and you chant to purple clouds a booming Gravity is Grace.

This poem, inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara, was first published in The Ekphrastic ReviewOctober 20, 2023 in their Ekphrastic Challenges series. Read about ekphrastic poetry in Niagara.

Lucie Chou

Lucie Chou is an ecopoet working in mainland China. Currently an undergraduate majoring in English language and literature, she is also interested in the ecotone between ekphrasis and ecopoetics, and in exploring the magic presences of other-than-human living beings bleeding into the lonely arrogance of human experience. Her work has appeared in the Entropy magazine, the Black Earth Institute Blog, the Tiny Seed Journal website, The Ekphrastic ReviewTransom, and in the Plant Your Words Anthology published by Tiny Seed Press. A poem is forthcoming in from Tofu Ink Arts, both in print and online. She has published a debut collection of ecopoetry, Convivial Communiverse, with Atmosphere Press. She hikes, gardens, and studies works of natural history by Victorian writers with gusto. In August 2023, she participated in the Tupelo Press 30 / 30 project where she fundraised for the indie press by writing one poem each day for a month. She writes for a constellation of brilliant readers hopefully including street trees and feral animals she encounters in each city she travels to.

To Frederic Edwin Church Regarding Niagara Falls by Portly Bard


Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

So much like ours, your river’s course
becomes the path of nature’s force
embracing ever lower plane
and carving ever deeper main
except where soil is bared to rock
or rise becomes a stubborn block
that, barring flood, will be its bound
or island it will flow around
as ending tributaries merge
and hasten more the mounting surge
to roar of sudden, fated falls,
the splendor eye so well recalls
by glimmer of prismatic twist
in fountain of its risen mist.

©2023 by Portly Bard. Reproduced on the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website with the permission of Portly Bard.

This poem, inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara, was first published in The Ekphrastic ReviewOctober 20, 2023 in their Ekphrastic Challenges series. Read about ekphrastic poetry in Niagara.


Portly Bard.
Old man.  Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent…
of verse becoming complement…
…and by such homage being lent…
ideally also compliment.
Ekphrastic joy comes not from praise
for words but from returning gaze
far more aware of fortune art
becomes to eyes that fathom heart.

The Undertow by Sasha Steensen

A mountain of snow and Ice almost reaching the crest of the American Falls at Niagara Falls
Undated photo by Gisela Scholz.
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

I am shown
a generosity

so muddied
at the muddy bottom

of a question I forget to ask
until it’s fished out

but bloated but
in the manner of a net

a web of causal connections
attached to its corners

gently moving over
the surface of the water

how come the road
couldn’t have stayed followed

by way of hollowed out
logs & paddles

made of pawpaw wood
rather than by the crows

alone to the moment
when the Monongahela

the Allegheny
the Ohio meet

I hate the underside
of an idea

but I like the underside
of grass that grows

and I’ve seen it from there

as if the water had suddenly

and then surged forth

from there
I can see a shoal

of tadpoles
drowning themselves

I hate the idea
of the Ohio

as a magic carpet
into the heart

of the continent
a great gift

of geography
a gleaming highway

carrying a tide
of settlement

and expansion but
I despise

the idea of the three rivers
as my family tree

their canals
tributaries & branches

& later the Mississippi

by its side
for miles

until along comes my
baby floating

in a basket down
the Colorado

I despise all such

and the fact that I’ve never
heard steamwhistles

or boatmen’s bugles
I’ve never traveled

aboard The Messenger
The Telegraph

The Gladiator
The Ohio Belle

or The Great Republic
nor have I put my foot

in the Ohio
anymore than you

and the Niagara
I abhor the Niagara

in winter the
difficult beauty

of its frozen falls
and all they’ve

come to represent.

Source: Steensen, Sasha, 2010, “The Undertow,” Academy of American Poet’s Daily Poetry Series,     

Also published in: Steensen, Sasha, 2014, House of Deer, Fence Books, 93.

View Sasha Steensen’s website


The Niagara Way of Death Presentation

Niagara way
Tonight (May 18) at 7pm I’ll be doing the online presentation “The Niagara Way of Death: Depictions of Death & Near Death in the Poetry of Niagara Falls” at the Niagara Poetry Guild meeting. Please join us through the link at Meetup 

Death is a pervasive topic in the poetry written about Niagara Falls. In the poetry of the 19th century, the Falls themselves were seen as a metaphor for death – the approach to death, the brink between life & death, the fall into purgatory, the ascension to heaven & the covenant between the human and the divine. See how the poetry of previous times as well as today reflect those metaphors, and how the 18 categories of death at Niagara Falls is treated in the poetry of the last 250 years.

Originally presented at the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society, Andrew Porteus will be sharing with us “The Niagara Way of Death: Depictions of Death and Near-Death Experiences at Niagara Falls” a 45 minute slide presentation.