Annie Edson Taylor

The poetry editor for The Canberra Times, PS Cottier, kindly selected a poem of mine to appear in the newspaper on 13 August 2022.

My poem was inspired by an American schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor who, on her 63rd birthday (24 October 1901), became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

In preparing for the feat, Annie first sent a cat over the Falls in the large oak barrel which had been purpose-built for the undertaking. The cat survived with just a gash to its head. To the amazement of many, Annie was relatively uninjured by her adventure though she, too, received a gash to her head.

Annie’s motives in making the trip were financial. She was a widow and finding it difficult to obtain steady employment. Though Annie subsequently sought speaking engagements and wrote a memoir, she never became wealthy from her trip over the Falls and died penniless at 82 years of age.

Annie is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Niagara Falls NY, along with other daredevils who have taken on the Falls or the Niagara River rapids.

Annie Edson Taylor
(the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel)

I awake this morning,
confined by the walls
of my bedroom
as it hurtles through space,
eyes wide open and yet
unable to shake the feeling

I live my life
sealed in a barrel, sweeping
toward a precipice,
not knowing if the next moment
will bring glory or oblivion
or something in-between.