King Crimson and Tom Phillips


A good friend recently sent me a link to an article about the writer/painter Tom Phillips and his artwork for the King Crimson album Starless and Bible Black. I had no idea he had done this.

Being a huge fan of Phillips’ work A Humument, I immediately ordered the vinyl that has now arrived and from which I am posting images here.



I do highly recommend Tom Phillips’ book A Humument: it is a found, subverted new text taken from the Victorian novel A Human Document: see how to order and explore other amazing information and examples of his wider work here.

When teaching English and creative writing, I always introduced humuments to students to read and as prompts/inspiration for devising their own, the latter usually from the torn-out pages of disused novels and other school texts, and have over many years enjoyed making my own, again from novels but also the emails and documents and other paraphernalia I encountered as a teacher, both internal and external. I am most proud of the set I produced which subverted the first National Curriculum in English document, mine telling the story of lish [Eng lish] and his attempts to get laid at the age of 19: I should have said ‘corrupted’ as well as ‘subverted’, and I know it was a puerile creation, but it made me feel upbeat at the time. When I left my teaching job nearly 7 years ago I removed this set from my office wall where it had been on display but I have been unable to locate ever since. I must search, find and post here some day.

It is interesting now to check out online ‘experimental’ poetry sites – and there is a rich and wonderful variety – and to see so many writers using the technique created/popularised by Tom Phillips, from the selection of text within another text and simply blotting out the unused original, to those more artistic encapsulations of the way Phillips not only generated new textual content but produced original artwork to cover/conceal/remove the unused original text.

If the above descriptions do not appear to make sense, then I urge you again to check out the great man’s site. Here is an example from the back of the KC album,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s