Linda Hogan’s The Book of Medicines is another one of those books that I am surprised I have only just read. I actually finished reading it last week so right now I have no specific details to offer here, but that during my reading of it, I kept contrasting Hogan’s poetics and/or craft to Joy Harjo’s. I suppose as they are both Native American women authors, the comparison is bound to happen? Anyway, what I love about Hogan is that her wording feels upon first read very plain spoken (almost like a coaxing to not be afraid of this language, a reassurance that you reader can access this), but that I see that she really does employ a figurative poetic register, or mythical (mythological) register and litany like repetition. Much like a lot of old story from the mouths of elders, there are all these unexpected turns in the narrative and language. So she never gets to overstating the importance of the story, which is something that has disappointed if not annoyed me about Harjo’s writing in two of the three books of hers I have read, namely She Had Some Horses and A Map to the Next World: Poems and Tales.
Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings I had picked up a few months ago then put down for a while. I am really glad I came back to it. So I was already understanding Ono’s pulling art out of the gallery spaces and into the streets, into people’s homes, using the elements and everyday objects as art materials, and creating or suggesting art in which everyone could participate in its making. Not only this, but that having these art events in our everyday lives would (could) make all of us more mindful of of the spaces we inhabit and of the speed that we typically move. Imagine if politicians had to squeeze their bodies through a gate and take a step down into a lowered area in order to get to a meeting to discuss world politics. Imagine what the effect of this mindfulness could be on an entire culture.
There is an art event she proposes, in which “you” (the instructions are addressed to someone, any one of us) invite people over to a space to draw a circle on a canvas. Imagine, she writes, a housewife in Bronxville having people over in her living room and telling them about the canvas with many circles drawn on it, yes, that’s my art, go ahead and participate in it. The canvas need not be blank to begin with, Ono writes. It can be an old Warhol, or a da Vinci.
Oh, but the last thing I wanted to say about Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit is that these art events, these instructions wouldn’t yield the same exact results for everybody, and are subject to each one of our interpretations. Like there is no wrong answer. She tells us how during the hunger and scarcities created by WWII in Japan, she and her brother created for each other food menus “in the air,” for the other to imagine/envision. And that would be the start of it all right there.