m.j. millington

17TH CENTURY GENTLEMEN TALK ABOUT FLOWERS (2018)

A set of four single-sheet zines exploring flower imagery in 17th-century poetry written by men. It turns out that when men write about flowers, what they’re often really talking about is women. Hand-cut and collaged flowers, maps, star-charts, prose and handwriting are intermingled and juxtaposed to form new interactions between text and image. These collages serve as a evocative ground when layered beneath the selections of 17th-century verse that float above.

Fair Tulip: verse from “Hymn to Light” by Abraham Cowley (1618–1667)

Lovely Rose: verse from “Song” by Edmund Waller (1606-1687)

Bright Lily: verse from “A Celebration of Charis: IV. Her Triumph” by Ben Jonson (1572-1637)

Giddy Peony: verse by Matsuo Bashō 松尾 芭蕉 (1644–1694)

 PRESERVE (2018)

An exploration of poetry and preservation: from the preservation of poems themselves, to poetry’s ability to preserve us. Inspired by lines from “The Waste Land,” by TS Eliot: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.” The poet gathers together fragments of literature that have meaning for him—lines of poetry written by others—and melds them together into a new poem. In so doing, the poet not only preserves the poems themselves, but also preserves himself (shores himself up) against the devastation wreaked by the first world war. Musing on these lines, I wondered, What poems would I choose to preserve? What poems would help me preserve myself?

So I began to put up poems for a time when they’re needed. There is work in preserving: women’s work, historically—just as women have so often preserved memory, and genealogy, and story. Fruit must be seeded, and sliced, juiced and sugared, cooked; and so a thing is preserved, but in a different form than that in which it began its life. And so in putting up poetry for a later season, in creating preserves of language and image and beauty, I took care to slice the poems thinly, line by line, and stirred well to mix them. They were poured into glass jars, and labeled with their contents and date. When the jars are next opened the poems inside won’t be in the same form in which they began life. They could be reassembled; but they can also be enjoyed in a new way, as each line intermingles with new fellows—fragments creating a new whole, a new flavor. Read more in my journal post, “Preserving Poetry.”


COLORING BOOK (2016)

Meredith Miller and I worked in collaboration to create A Beinecke Collection of Creatures in September 2016, in honor of the reopening of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library after its closure for renovation.

An alphabet coloring book, each letter is dedicated to an animal found somewhere within the library’s vast collections. The images selected cross geography, language, and time: from “A is for Antelope,” from a 1599 German volume entitled India Orientalis; to “Z is for Zebu,” from Master Woodbine’s Alphabet for All Good Children, London, 1850. A citation key matches each animal to its printed or manuscript origin.

VOYNICH DRESS (2016)

The Voynich Dress was part of the exhibit “Reactions: Medieval/Modern” at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, University of Pennsylvania, from August 15-December 16, 2016. The exhibit focused on the varied relationships between manuscripts and their readers, redactors, and reworkers throughout time; including the relationship between artists and writers, and the inspiration they take from medieval manuscripts in the modern era. The dress is now part of the permanent collections of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University.

I created this dress to pay homage to one of my favorite medieval mysteries: the infamous Voynich Manuscript (see also here.) The manuscript is both wildly enigmatic, because of its sinuous, undeciphered text; and at the same time strangely approachable, thanks to its bizarre and evocative illustrations. The dress also serves as an exploration of the idea that when we dress in costume as someone or something else, it's because we want to capture or channel those qualities which we perceive in the original. Beyond this, when someone dresses as a cipher, do they themselves become a cipher? Or does that cipher become slightly de-ciphered, because of the unavoidable human beneath the costume?

Each image was drawn freehand with fabric markers on muslin, utilizing the fully-digitized images on the Beinecke Library’s Digital Library website as my models. Each image is cited with its relevant folio designation, and the accompanying text is an accurate reproduction of the text next to the originals.