Acorn by Yoko Ono
25th Jun 2013
Acorn comprises 100 poems split into 12 sequences: Sky, Earth, City, Connection, Watch, Cleaning, Sound, Dance, Life, Questionnaire, Quiz and Revelations.
The collection follows on from Yoko Ono’s 1964 book, Grapefruit, and continues its format of meditative instructions accompanied by dot drawings.
Less a poetry chapbook than a philosophical guide, the book is there to be drawn on and filled in, as with a magazine questionnaire or a baby journal. Ono’s brief edicts range from sweet invitations to a subverted perspective:
Each time we raise our foot from the ground,
we are walking in the sky
Check how long you walked in the sky today.
to multiple choice imperatives:
DANCE PIECE IX
Dangle empty cans and bottles all over your body.
Dance without making a sound.
Carry a heavy object on your back.
Dance as swiftly as you can.
Much like the ‘extraordinary exercises’ in David Almond’s My Name is Mina, Ono’s whimsy manifests as a compulsion to think wider and take a lingering look at the world.
She observes topography as the human nervous system, looks down at puddles and up at the sky, and extracts spiritual advice from the urban mundane.
In many ways the collection harks back to Ono’s previous work – the title references Ono’s 1969 ‘Acorn Peace’ collaboration with John Lennon, which she revisited on its fortieth anniversary, delivering two acorns to 123 world leaders as a reminder of world peace.
Several poems also begin with an instruction to ‘Imagine’, and these succinct verses summon a holistic utopia similar to the song she co-produced with Lennon in 1971.
The acorn is Ono’s small totem of the possibilities of a peaceful, boundless creativity. She does not waver in her dedication to new imaginings, and she succeeds in urging the reader to realise William Blake’s augury, ‘to see the world in a grain of sand’.
Acorn is Ono’s gentle command to count blessings large and small. Where these sentiments can seem hackneyed, her dot drawings undulate with a depth that the text lacks: each image is imbued with motion and figured with a Möbius texture that makes a fitting illustration of Ono’s oscillations between the microscopic and the cosmic.
Similarly, her counsel ranges from the profound to the comic, and perhaps the best acorn of wisdom comes in Dance Piece III:
Take your pants off
before you fight.
Published this month, Acorn is available in paperback for £11 and e-book for £7, and can be pre-ordered with a 15% discount from OR books.
Recommended for: readers who want to pause for thought and indulge in whimsy.