Filling Tooth

February 28, 2008

A not-quite aside from the recent talk of poetry, Peter Blegvad‘s minicomic “Filling Tooth” has as much substance as books ten times longer. A small effort few have read, it starts with just “tooth,” punning and rhyming the word & image into far more than their sum.


Each page holds one exhortation, starting with, “Say it.” The word below– TOOTH– gives way on the next page to a drawing, then abstracted, then deconstructed. Blegvad upends one of poetry’s key tenets with the command, “Resist association and analogy.” But he does just that, paradoxically, by stripping away nonessentials. In the end, by resisting rhyme (another order) and following orders, we end with no tooth, just metaphysics.

Like film’s Kuleshov effect, comics has something in them that tends to build a narrative. In Shane Simmons’ Longshot Comics, even a dot in a box can become a character in a story. Tooth doesn’t do the same here. Perhaps it’s the full-page images, or the stern narrator, but the comic occurs somewhere off the page. I suspect most of all it’s the fact that the narrator orders us above to perform this comic, like reading a poem aloud.

And the ending– perhaps my favorite in a comic, so much I can’t resist spoiling it here– we’re told to stare at a dot for 20 seconds on the last page. A white dot, on a black tooth. Turning the page, the back cover reveals “The ghost of tooth.” A black dot on a white page, looking at it reveals a floating, pulsating Tooth, the leftover image stuck on the retina. What a marvelous trick of the eye, and what a way to finish the performance. A ghost, perhaps, but not left dead on the page. Knowing exactly where it’s going, I read and reread “Filling Tooth” just for the pleasure of seeing that ghost tooth floating yet again.

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