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


  1. Now I'm giggling, imagining Templeton sneaking away from the barn to calm his nerves with some secret yoga poses before he returns to raid Wilbur's trough and terrorize the geese. :-)

    1. RIGHT? That was my FIRST thought: it's TEMPLETON!!! -tanita

  2. I like that you brought the idea of a 'grandstand' into this pose, Sara. It feels like you've caught the way rats must survive, all that bravado, and in the dark, doing yoga!

  3. Ha ha ha this is so joyful! The sculpture and the poem and the idea of a rat being compared to an avocado! I love it!

  4. My Chinese zodiac sign is the rat, so I celebrate the unrelenting spirit of this fine furred fellow!

  5. I love that you've given this semi-weird, not-really-a-rat a story and a purpose to match his pose. He really is avocado shaped - and yet, he's still in balance somehow, which is delightful.

  6. Sarah, this is marvelous! Avocado-sized stomach, bandy legs--the details crack me up. Definitely a rat who lost his tail. --Susan

  7. Your poem captures this talented rat so perfectly, right down to his missing tail!

  8. The rhyming and the overall rhythm/ meter of your poem made it fun to read. So clever. I enjoyed the ending as I imagined him twitching his nose maybe one too many times and loosing his balance. Thank you for sharing your blog on Facebook. I just happened to see it today. I love poetry and maybe will give it a try.

  9. YESSS... I imagined he lost that tail and never looked back! Perhaps a no-tail rat is not a bad rat? Such a great inspiration, Benavidex!

  10. The piñata is amazing, and your poem, equally so! I love "Weightless, he's free to grandstand" -- well, all of it. Ruth,

  11. Love your rhymes--especially avocado and bravado! These pinatas are amazing!

  12. You had me at the first line comparing his torso to an avocado, and then the fun just kept coming. Thanks for sharing and bringing me a smile.

  13. I have so enjoyed the piñata art, and the poems they have inspired. Seeing the different piñatas that resonated with participating poets, and the poems they inspired. I love your take on this tail-less fellow! Thanks for sharing it this week.

  14. I so love this! It is playful and so full of life. I love all the connections to yoga practice (clearing the mind, steady heartbeat, the breathing). I also appreciate the speculation on the loss of the tail! Lovely all the way around.

  15. Oh, that glinting trap and gasping terror. You made me feel how rat-like I am, Sara! Who knew?


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