On page 186 of Tom Phillips' A Humument, Phillips creates a contrasting, short poem between the ability of “clairvoyance” and looking forward to a melancholy day ahead. Phillips utilizes imagery, irony, and intricate diction to portray the theme of the poem. He suggests that those who possess the aptitude of clairvoyance (the literal supernatural power to see things that normal people wouldn’t be able to with their given senses) are rare to find and how much easier it is to be more pessimistic, only seeing what everyone else can.
Tom Phillips uses simple imagery to further stress his point on the rarity of people with clairvoyance. In the first half of his painting, Phillips creates a splotch of words with the borders spreading in different directions. The speaker states, “Amplify your/ unhappy/ to-morrow”. In the spreading of the edges of this line, he demonstrates how the feeling of pessimism can be magnified and unknowingly sought out by almost everyone in the world. Also, the meaning can be interpreted as to look beyond the sorrows and the unhappiness that tomorrow may bring, which the speaker expresses by having the border of the lines stretching out. But, at the bottom corner of the painting, the speaker states, “clairvoyance”. This word is put alone, in isolation away from the rest of the poem, and it is also incomplete in thought. It is possible that Phillips purposely isolated the word or also that it was just coincidentally in this location. Not only does Phillips seclude “clairvoyance”, but it is perfectly boxed in, with its rectangular shape. Another interpretation of his use of imagery is how he purposely surrounds the poetry in black color. Not only that, but the lines of the poetry are in white, making it quite legible and visible to the eye. His use of black represents total darkness and the clear or white color of the actual writing in the poetry represents the light. People of the norm are not equipped with the ability to see through darkness, which creates an unpleasant feeling. Hence, the speaker states, “Amplify your/ unhappy/ to-morrow”. The speaker describes the future as unhappy, which relates to Phillips' use of black color to envelope the eyes of the beholder. Society, at some point of their life, will experience pessimistic anxiety for what lies ahead and not knowing makes it even worse. These melancholy views of the future reason with Phillips use of blindness through darkness in color. Spreading the edges suggests to look beyond what is usually given to a person, beyond the darkness.
Phillips' utilization of irony would seem rather questionable by the reader because one would rather seek the optimistic point of view of what holds tomorrow rather than what may or may not happen. Pessimistic human anxiety is a part of mankind that is so inevitable, which is why instead of discouraging the negativity in the future, he encourages it. But, out of random, the speaker includes “clairvoyance” which force the first half of the poem into a state of contrast. This term is supposed to demonstrate a rare power in which one can see what others can't with their normal senses. But, possessing this ability can enable one to see the optimism in the present and future. This is also emphasized with his use of isolation of the word—towards the bottom left corner. Here, his two ideas are those that only see the the negativity in which everyone else is capable of seeing while the other is looking beyond that, possibly the positivity in tomorrow.
Finally, Phillips applies intricate diction in his poem to help portray, literally, the theme of his poem. His use of sarcastic diction makes the poem more intriguing and thought provoking. The speaker of the poem is addressing his message to almost everyone on Earth because he refers to his subject in second point of view when he states, “your/ unhappy/ to-morrow”. Since this poem relates to normal society, it is only appropriate that he uses second point of view. The speaker also uses exaggerated terms such as “amplify” and “clairvoyance”. Amplifying an object or in this case, an emotion, is increasing its size dramatically. But, since that first half of the poem seems to be spreading in all directions of the painting, it is only right to assume that it could spread to clairvoyance. He is probably trying to send out a message that people should seek a way out of the normal, everyday feeling of pessimism to opening up and enlarging the ability to see the brighter side of things—which most others cannot.
Tom Phillips' theme is implied in the poem with his use of exaggerated diction, dark imagery, and irony. His message to society is that clairvoyance is possible to possess if people can only see outside of their negative ideas of tomorrow, though he seems to encourage it—only because society makes it so inevitable since most people think similarly. But, his message reaches a point where the surrounding edges of the lines is making its way to clairvoyance.
- Vanessa G.
- Hello everyone! My name is Vanessa. I'm currently in school for my Bachelor's in Social Work with a minor in Juvenile Justice. Life is what we make it so why let "society" ruin it. If you are a part of society and allow it to influence you, this blog is not for you. If not, enjoy reading about hair and products, music, society, relationships, and anything else I can think of.