Yoko Ono’s Odd Little Book

Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono turned 80 this year, which means that parties begin and end earlier for her. The launch of her new book of poetry, Acorn, on the rooftop of the Refinery Hotel, started at 5:30 p.m., and it wasn’t exactly a rager. The bar was airy and felt more like a painter’s studio.

Acorn is Ms. Ono’s first work of poetry in nearly 50 years and is something of a sequel to her first, 1964’s Grapefruit. Like its predecessor, Acorn is a set of “instructions,” the term Ms. Ono uses to describe the conceptual imperatives she’s been creating for the past five decades. The old legend is that John Lennon and Ms. Ono met at an exhibition of her instruction pieces at the Indica Gallery in London in 1966.

Her new set of instructions includes the intellectually playful “Room Piece V”: “Get a telephone that only echoes back your voice. Call every day and complain and moan about your life and the people around you.” Other bits, like “Dance Piece VIII,” verge on cosmic psychobabble: “Imagine one thousand suns rising at the same time. Dance in the field.”

The book could easily be finished on a subway ride, which is part of Ms. Ono’s point, as she explained, like some kind of prophet, to the crowd at her party.

“This is actually a bit of future, now.” She told her audience, ominously, but with a smile. “I just read some book that said all these intelligent people … because they’re so used to the Internet, they can’t really read a book from beginning to end; the brain refuses it because they’re so used to Internet communication.”

The room hummed with confusion.

“That is not as saddening, because I think that a suggestion like that—the book was stuck, and I think that Acorn was already that changed form before this particular situation was happening. So when you read Acorn, you’ll see that it’s short enough so you don’t have to think about reading a whole page; there’s no whole page. Thank you.”

Then Ms. Ono retreated to the elevators.