Milton Acorn (1923-1986). Courtesy Books in Canada.

Milton Acorn
Born March 30, 1923
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Died August 20, 1986 (aged 63)
Notable award(s) Canadian Poets Award, Governor General's Award

Milton James Rhode Acorn (March 30, 1923 - August 20, 1986) was a Canadian poet and playwright, nicknamed "The People's Poet" by his peers.


Acorn was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Acorn was a World War II veteran. On a trans-Atlantic crossing, he suffered a wound from depth charges. The wound was severe enough for him to receive a disability pension from Veterans Affairs for most of his life. He returned to Prince Edward Island and moved to Montreal in 1956. He spent several years living at the Hotel Waverly in Toronto.[1]

In Montreal, he published some of his early poems in the political magazine, New Frontiers. He also self-published a mimeographed chapbook, In Love and Anger, his earliest collection of poems.

He was for a short time married to poet Gwendolyn MacEwen.[2]

In 1967, Acorn helped found the then-"underground" newspaper The Georgia Straight in Vancouver, BC.[3]

Acorn was awarded the Canadian Poets Award in 1970.[4]

In July 1986, he suffered a heart attack and was admitted to the hospital. Acorn died in his home town of Charlottetown on August 20, 1986, due to complications associated with his heart condition and diabetes. According to fellow poet James Deahl, he had "lost his will to live after the death of a younger sister."[4]


Acorn received the Governor General's Award for poetry in 1976 for The Island Means Minago. Other awards and honors Acorn has received include:

  • 1970 Canadian Poets' Award (more commonly known as the People's Poet Award and Medal)
  • 1977 Honorary Doctorate of Law Degree (from the University of Prince Edward Island)
  • 1986 Life member, Canadian Poetry Association

His poetry was anthologized in the Penguin Book of Canadian Verse.

Milton Acorn People's Poetry AwardEdit

In 1987, the Milton Acorn People's Poetry Award was established in Acorn's memory by Ted Plantos. It is presented annually to an outstanding "people's poet." The award is $250 (since raised to $500) and a medallion, modelled after the one given to Milton Acorn.

Acorn on filmEdit

The National Film Board of Canada produced 2 films on Acorn's life and works. The earlier is entitled In Love and Anger: Milton Acorn - Poet, and came out in 1984. The NFB's abstract of the film reads:

Acorn left Prince Edward Island in the late 1940s to earn his living as an itinerant carpenter, and wound up in Toronto as one of Canada's most highly regarded poets and one of its most outrageous literary figures. Dubbed "The People's Poet" by fellow poets, he won the Governor General's Literary Award in 1976. Subject to bi-polar disorder and burned out by personal crises, Acorn moved back to Charlottetown in 1981. This film, directed by a P.E.I. filmmaker, brings out Acorn's wit, love of nature, unorthodox political views, and sometimes infuriating personal contradictions."[1]

The 2nd is called A Wake for Milton. It was produced in 1988. The NFB abstract for this film reads,

"Canadian poet, Milton Acorn, is remembered with feeling and eloquence in this tribute that takes the form of a wake. Cedric Smith acts as the singer of Acorn's life and art, while such friends as Al Purdy, Pat Lane, and former wife Gwendolyn MacEwen recall the man known as 'The People's Poet.' Evoked here is the unique mixture of intense emotion, wit and radical politics that identified Acorn as a man and a poet." [2]


Whiskey Jack Milton Acorn

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


  • Against a League of Liars. Toronto: Hawkshead Press, 1960.
  • The brain's the Target (chapbook). Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1960.
  • Fifty-Eight Poems. Fredericton, NB: University of New Brunswick, 1963.
  • Jawbreakers. Toronto: Contact Press, 1963.
  • I've Tasted my Blood: Poems 1956 to 1968 (selected by Al Purdy). Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1969; 2nd edition, Steel Rail Educational, 1978.
  • More Poems for People. Toronto: NC Press, 1972.
  • I Shout Love [&] On shaving off his beard. Toronto: Village Book Store Press, 1971.
  • The Island Means Minago. Toronto: NC Press, 1975.
  • Jackpine Sonnets. Toronto: Steel Rail Educational, 1977.
  • Captain Neal MacDougal & the Naked Goddess: A demi-prophetic work as a sonnet-series. Charlottetown, PEI: Ragweed Press, 1982.
  • Dig Up my Heart: Selected poems 1952-83 (selected by Al Purdy). Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1983.
  • Whiskey Jack. Toronto: HMS Press, 1986.
  • I Shout Love, and other poems (edited by James Deahl). Toronto: Aya Press, 1987.
  • A Stand of Jackpine: Two dozen Canadian sonnets. Toronto: Unfinished Monument Press, 1987.
  • The Uncollected Acorn (edited by James Deahl). Toronto: Deneau, 1987.
  • Hundred Proof Earth (edited by James Deahl). Toronto: Aya Press, 1988.
  • To Hear the Faint Bells. Hamilton, ON: Hamilton Haiku Press, 1996.
  • The Edge of Home: Milton Acorn from the Island (edited by Anne Compton). Charlottetown, PE: Institute for Island Studies, 2002.[5]
  • In a Springtime Instant : Selected poems, 1950-1986 (edited by James Deahl). Oakville, ON: Mosaic Press, 2012.[5]


  • The Road to Charlottetown: A play (with Cedric Smith). Hamilton, ON: UnMon Northland, 1998.[5]

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy University of Toronto.[6]
Finding Milton ("The Natural History of Elephants")

Finding Milton ("The Natural History of Elephants")

Audio / videoEdit

Aicha Amettova “I’ve Tasted My Blood”, Milton Acorn

Aicha Amettova “I’ve Tasted My Blood”, Milton Acorn

  • More Poems for People (CD). Canadian Poetry Association, 1986 (audio tape); 2001. ISBN 0-919957-42-0
  • Milton Acorn reading from More poems for people (audiobook). London, ON: SpareTime Editions, 1989.

See alsoEdit




  1. Fraser Robinson and Josef Szende, "Spadina iTour." Heritage Toronto, 2009
  3. Coupey, Pierre. "Straight Beginnings: The Rise & Fall of the Underground Press", The Grape weekly newspaper #8, pages 12 and 13, March 8, 1972, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Downey, Donn. "Award-winning poet honored by peers", Globe & Mail. August 22, 1986.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Search results = au:Milton Acorn, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Dec. 17, 2013.
  6. Milton Acorn: Published Works, Canadian Poetry Online, University of Toronto Libraries. Web, Dec. 17, 2013.

External linksEdit

Audio /video
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. (view article). (view authors).
This page uses content from Wikinfo . The original article was at Wikinfo:Milton Acorn.
The list of authors can be seen in the (view authors). page history. The text of this Wikinfo article is available under the GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.