Clay Sparkman — A Review of “My Imaginary Animal,” a Poem by Marta

August 2nd, 2017

Clay Sparkman


I was breathless, awaiting the publication of little 8-year old Marta’s first poem. I had heard so much about her. Mostly that she was Marta, an 8-year old who writes poetry.


Her poem was recently published at the illustrious online literary journal, Let me just start by saying that Marta’s first poem does not disappoint. “My Imaginary Animal” is everything we anticipated and much more. Enough talking about it. Let’s have a look at Marta’s poem:


My Imaginary Animal


I have an imaginary amimal,

His name is Winkie Wink,

He has a body of a cat

And once he fell in the sink.

We like to call him Winnie,

He doesn’t understand,

That Winnie is a little bear

in this apalling land.


© By Marta

Age 8


I was spellbound. I could barely put it down. As the plot unfolded before me, I was drawn deeper into “My Imaginary Animal,” sentence by sentence, word by word.


At times, I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. I just knew that the emotional effect was overwhelming. This poem taps into something deep and primal in each of us. Marta cuts to the quick, and she does not waste words. I haven’t seen magical realism used to describe poetry before, but I feel that several aspects of this poem are designed so as to lead the reader into that precise realm. The surrealism coupled with a clear tether to reality tends to lead us toward the belief that this could indeed be real in spite of the strong surrealistic elements. The imaginary animal, for instance, is a key central theme within the narrative and projects crucial symbolic elements as well.


It is a curious imaginary beast. The protagonist is fully aware that the animal is imaginary, so there is no evident aspect of delusion. The narrative doesn’t take long to branch into various mysterious realms. For example, the animal has a cat body, but the reader is left to speculate about its head. Does it have a people- head, like the Sphinx? I initially speculated that this was to be inferred. The dual name representing the dual parts. “Winkie Wink,” perhaps suggests a cat body named” Winkie” and a people head named “Wink.”


Throughout history, the sphinx is mythicized as treacherous and merciless. Those who cannot answer its riddle suffer a fate typical in such mythological stories, as they are killed and eaten by this ravenous monster.


At this point, Winnie-the-Pooh enters the narrative. And we see that there is a third name, which the sphinx character struggles to understand. This leads me to wonder. The sphinx is very clever, and this beast not so much. Could it be possible that he/she has no head at all? SPOILER ALERT: That would explain why the Imaginary creature fell into the sink. We don’t know if it is a bathroom or a kitchen sink, but the symbolism is vast and compelling. I’ll leave it to the reader to sort this out.


SPOILER ALERT: As the poem comes to a close, and after this enthralling magical journey, we are stunned by these final words:


“That Winnie is a little bear

in this apalling land.”


I haven’t read the Pooh series for quite some time. It is a beloved series of stories about a fictional anthropomorphic teddy bear–the creation of English author A. A. Milne. It is certainly worth considering how the juxtaposition of these two imaginary characters plays out. We must ask, what is the significance? The unexpected twist: I don’t recall the land of Pooh as being particularly appalling. Pooh had little adventures, and nice friends (like Eeyore, the donkey, and Christopher Robin), and he loved to eat his honey. Though we might note that he often managed to get his head caught in the honey jar. (Herein may lie the appalling aspect of place.) It surely is no coincidence that we have two imaginary characters named Winnie without heads (Pooh, by virtue of circumstance), and each engaged in various troublesome predicaments. Pooh Bear gets his head stuck in the honey jar, and Winnie the headless cat is encountered falling into the sink. We must pay careful attention to these similarities in character. The story unfolds on many levels. Quite frankly, and I don’t say this easily, but I believe that we have a prodigy in our midst. And I for one will be counting the days until Marta releases her next poem. Could it be, “My Imaginary Animal 2?” Let us hope so. I feel quite certain that there is more to this story. Take a bow Marta! The world needs more 8-year old poets like you.

Mexico - Clay sittingS. Clay Sparkman was born in Portland, Oregon. A book of his poetry was published as A Place Between Two Voices (by Tabor Hill Press). He has spent much of his life bouncing back and forth between a more conventional existence in Oregon and a less conventional existence exploring and living in an eclectic smattering of places upon this orb. He is married to a Chilean woman, and considers Chile to be his second home—maybe his third. He currently lives in Nicaragua, with his wife, Veronica, his 12-year old son, Javier, his dog, Lola, and his cat, Torcha—along with many geckos, snakes, scorpions, and things that go “bump” in the night.