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 piƱata 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