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the Complete Review
the complete review - comic

Poem Strip

Dino Buzzati

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To purchase Poem Strip

Title: Poem Strip
Author: Dino Buzzati
Genre: Comic
Written: 1969 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 218 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Poem Strip - US
Poem Strip - UK
Poem Strip - Canada
Orfi aux enfers - France
Orphi und Eura - Deutschland
  • Italian title: Poema a fumetti
  • Translated by Marina Harss

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Our Assessment:

B : colorful take on a version of Orpheus and Eurydice

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times A 15/11/2009 Richard Rayner
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Spring/2010 Jamie Richards

  From the Reviews:
  • "This is weird, wild, wonderful. (...) There are shades of Fellini, shades of Dickens, shades of the great Italian horror director Mario Bava. A beautiful book." - Richard Rayner, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Poem Strip is a full immersion -- or crash course -- in Dino Buzzati’s narrative world, a world where death and mystery are the prime movers of life, and the fantastic dwells in the everyday. Informed by a variety of visual sources, from surrealism to pin-up photography, from Victorian illustrations to pop art to Expressionist cinema, and of course, comics, Buzzati achieves a perfect synthesis between word and image, displaying the full range of his distinctive style with thick lines and bright colors that oscillate between the surreal and the photo-realistic." - Jamie Richards, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Poem Strip is a not-quite-comic-strip. Most of the pages feature a single panel, and throughout the pictures dominate (although there are pages with blocks of text). The art in Poem Strip is wildly inventive and varied: there's no uniform style or approach, and only a small portion of the panels are straightforward realistic depictions; in most, Buzzati takes advantage of the possibility of graphic freedom -- often very impressively and cleverly. (Several panels also are homages to (or (loose) copies, acknowledged in an author's note, of) the works of painters and filmmakers, from Dali and Caspar David Friedrich to Fellini and F.W.Murnau.)
       The story is a contemporary reimagining of Orpheus and Eurydice, with a pop singer, Orfi, descending into the afterlife to try to retrieve the woman he loved, Eura.
       Orfi finds a way into the afterlife-world, and is guided around it by a jacket (yes, a man's jacket, whose function is one of 'guardian demon' down there). They even have color TV now -- "But we lack the most important thing: the freedom to die." So those stuck down there simply linger on, left only with: "Predictability, sameness, boredom". There's lots of lust -- or the memory of lust -- but no satisfaction. (The story is also filled with pictures of naked women, but the focus is on breasts (lots and lots of breast in these pages ...): possibly there were censorship-reasons why Buzzati refrained from drawing genitalia, but in at least one panel where a woman is fully exposed the fact that those regions aren't accurately represented -- i.e. they essentially aren't there, making the sex-act an impossible one -- is an effective illustration for the accompanying text, of men: "deprived of burning desire".)
       Orfi does break into song, which stirs things up a bit, but his main ambition is to find Eura, and the narrative picks up as he seeks her out, allowing Buzzati to take readers on a tour of the place. When they're finally reunited, Buzzati also manages to get some decent dramatic tension going, as Eura is hard to move to even try to escape with Orfi.
       Buzzati's lyrical approach -- excused, to some extent, by his singer-protagonist -- makes for some dreadful text; stripped of the pictures this would be one god-awful prose-poem. The pictures, on the other hand, show a lot more thought, and the work works as a 'graphic' fiction should, the weak supporting text excusable because the pictures -- in their variety and creativity -- rise far above it.
       Poem Strip is an appealing curiosity, showing the strengths and weaknesses of the comic book form. Surprisingly, the distinguished writer Buzzati here shows himself to be far more adept handling the graphic part of the work than the text -- but that only got him so far. The work is, emphatically, a product of the late 1960s, both in style and temperament; in some ways it is impressive that such a work could be produced at that time -- but the question of why it was not the start of something, why it was not immediately widely imitated, is fairly easily answered: it is also clearly a dead end, a fun piece of experimentation for Buzzati, but a form that simply can not accomplish what a written text alone can.

- M.A.Orthofer, 19 November 2009

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Poem Strip: Reviews: Other books by Dino Buzzati under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Dino Buzzati lived 1906 to 1972

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© 2009-2024 the complete review

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