Friday, January 26, 2024

Poetry Friday: Writing to the Art of Roberto Benavidez

It was an easy choice to kick off 2024 with an ekphrastic challenge. Writing about or in conversation with a piece of art automatically gives a poet several places to begin:

What do you first notice? What lingers with you after you look away? Is there more to the story, things beneath the surface that you're curious about? What questions would you ask the art or the artist if you could?  

All these ideas (and more) were on my mind as I engaged with the work of Roberto Benavidez, who describes himself as "sculptor specializing in the piñata form." Benavidez came to my attention through my brother, John, who sent me a link to an episode of Craft in America (streaming on PBS) which featured Benavdez's amazing pinatas.  I then quickly lost myself in his creations, which play with themes of "race, sexuality, art, sin, humor, ephemerality and beauty."  If you can't find something to write about in that list, look again!

But what most drew my eyes were Benavidez's paper sculptures that were inspired by another piece of art, Hieronymus Bosch's famous The Garden of Earthly Delights (also concerned with above said list...heavy on the SIN part.) It was from that body of work that I found my muse, choosing to engage not so much with sin, but with the art's humor, and the ephemerality of any physical form, be it a lifetime in a rat's twitching body or one quiet moment in a yoga pose. 

Please do go look around at Benavidez's work. And if you feel inspired, pick one to write to. Here's mine: (and apologies to this beast if he's not a rat...there's no tail, but he just felt like a rat to me.) 

Artwork by Roberto Benavidez
from his collection "Beasts in the Garden
of Earthly Delights.



His torso is plump as an avocado,

his bandy forelegs balancing

only ripe mischief and bravado

He’s cleared his mind of the fury

of the glinting trap, the gasping terror 

of a tail wrenched off in a blurry-hurry

Weightless, he’s free to grandstand, 

to steady his lurching heartbeat

to a joyful march inside the bandstand

of his puffed paper chest—oh so zen,

this posing rat, only his nose 

twitch-twitching now and then.


                -----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

Each of my fellow poets chose an artwork to write to, so go and be inspired by more of Benavidez's work, and their poems:

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Susan at Chicken Spaghetti

Friday, November 24, 2023

Poetry Friday: In the Style of Valerie Worth

One of my favorite small things: 
French green lentils

November's challenge is one of the most fun:  an invitation to write in the style of a well-known poet.  It's a chance to learn by imitation, and an opportunity to delve into the choices each poet makes when they create. This time it's Valerie Worth, who's best known for close observation, spare lines, attention to the "small things" (either in size or in importance) and an affinity for a child's viewpoint.  One of my favorite quotes about her work comes from Valerie herself: 

“It has always seemed to me that any tree or flower, any living creature, even any old board or brick or bottle possesses a mysterious poetry of its own, a poetry still wordless, formless, inaudible, but asking to be translated into words and images and sounds—to be expressed as a poem. Perhaps it could be said that written poetry is simply a way of revealing and celebrating the essentially poetic nature of the world itself.” ---as quoted in a profile of Valerie Worth, written by  Lee Bennett Hopkins for Language Arts, Vol. 68, October 1991 

I tried to honor that approach by  picking two small objects and finding the "mysterious poetry"  in them. 
The first poem was inspired by a soup I was making during our Sunday ZOOM meet-up, and by Worth's poem, "Safety Pin" in which she explores a pin both open and closed.  I did the same for a humble lentil, plucked from a bag, and examined both raw and cooked.  


they chatter
against the bowl,
a patch of pebbles
blotched as
turtle shells.

they fatten
to a chorus, sing 
of one hundred days 
in snug pods,
unspoiled sun.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

By the way, did you know there's a MasterClass in growing lentils?   I relied on that as I revised my poem, making it more specific with details like how long lentils take to grow, and how much sunlight they need. Research for the win! 

The second poem was a response to the most humble thing I could find in my office: the doorstop. At first, I thought: I can't write about that.  But then I thought: but Valerie Worth would.  So I did. 


an outstretched arm,
its white rubber tip
a gloved fist, dampens

the fling of an opening
door, the coiled spring
catching the energy

of the wild children
who enter. 

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Funny story:  the first picture I took of the doorstop showed me a dust bunny hiding behind the door.  Had to grab that and take another photo.  But maybe I should've written a Valerie Worth ode to the dust?? 

Find out more about Valerie Worth from my poetry sisters' explorations of her style and their wonderful poems.  Grateful to be writing all these years with these kind and talented poets:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Ruth

Friday, October 27, 2023

Poetry Friday: Let's play with Bouts-Rimés

Quotes fill the walls
at Planet Word,
Washington, DC 
(highly recommended) 

This month's challenge is another game, or as Mary Lee puts it, "a word puzzle."  Bouts-Rimés is an old game, played by poets since the early 17th century.  The name means "rhymed ends" and the game is played by giving a poet a list of rhymed end words, and challenging her to write a poem to fit.  Supposedly, the harder the end words, the better the game.  We weren't too cruel to ourselves, but the list did have a few doozies: 

A: profuse/abtruse/chartreuse/truce

B: incline/shine/resign/supine

C: various/gregarious/hilarious/precarious

D: ceasefire/quagmire/higher/dryer

E: transform/barnstorm/uniform/conform

F: humility/futility/nobility, tranquility

G: perturb/superb/reverb, disturb

We also decided to use these rhymes in any form of a sonnet. I always have to look up the variations, so here they are: 


Shakespearean: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG



And of course, we should try to work in our theme for the year of transformation (conversion, alteration, metamorphosis, mutation, growth, evolution, revision, modulation, change) 

Whew.  Enough with the rules...on to the game! What would you do with these words and that theme and these rhyme patterns?  I chose to pick an A word, ask a question with it, and use the "other" sonnet form to think out my answer. 

My solution is below:

Change (no, you change)

What is the nature of our truce?
Is our pause deadly quiet or sharply profuse?
If we decide to lie, hand in hand, supine,
unspeaking, could we still re-sign
with anxious fingers passionately gregarious
the terms to end this battle; quit this precarious
stumbling over words, un-mine this quagmire
and declare, with silent volumes, a ceasefire?
Or must we open with a hail of words, barnstorm
mutual defenses, stun by direct apology, and with uniform
speed, sheath every confession with disarming humility,
and wordily, warily, negotiate renewed tranquility? 
Either—but choose, no truce lasts undisturbed,
Speak then the piercing language of love, superb.

                                                        ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

My poetry sisters' solutions to this poetry puzzle can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Carol Labuzzetta at The Apples in my Orchard