Poetry from the 
Albert Bierstadt biography

"The Best Material for the Artist in the World" received Honorable Mention in the R. T. Smith Prize for Narrative Poetry.

Read the judge's comments.

Boats Ashore at Sunset by Albert Bierstadt

Boats Ashore at Sunset


                        Albert Bierstadt considers his critics


I’ll break my easel into fire-scrap,

knot my brushes into a duster,

then scour the day in Washington Square

listening for gossip rich enough

to gild a plot. From a farmer’s limp,

a deacon’s leer and jurist’s frock coat,

I will meld my hero and pen him

into a sea of inky troubles.

Who would decry his federation?


But if I know yarrow by the Platte,

deer browsing an aspened park at dawn,

nameless peaks jagged as a pike’s mouth

and paint them under the massing sky

of a glorious storm they call me 

an assembler, a confectioner

false to truth and nature, thus to art.


In New Bedford the sailors all know

Ahab’s tale is no biography.

Is he a lie? Forged from injury,

rumor and imagined fire, he rides

his blindness toward every soul’s abyss.

Where’s truth then, in rigor or in rave?

Ensemble is not pastiche, by God.

North Carolina Literary Review 2018 Cover

Finalist, 2017 James Applewhite Poetry Prize

Published in the North Carolina Literary Review - 2018