…you might want to consider these questions. Otherwise, you could come off as naïve.
–a professor’s response to a student’s assignment in an MFA writing program.
Naïve: 1650s, from Fr. naïve, fem. of naïf, from O.Fr. naif “naive, natural, just born,” from L. nativus “not artificial,” also “native, rustic,” lit. “born, innate, natural” (see native). Related: Naively.
Naïve is a French loanword (adjective, form of naïf) indicating having or showing a lack of experience, understanding or sophistication; in early use, it meant natural or innocent, and did not connote ineptitude.
Naïve adj (1650) 1: marked by unaffected simplicity: artless, ingenuous 2 a: deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment; esp: credulous b: not previously subjected to experimentation or a particular experimental situation; also : not having previously used a particular drug 3: primitive 3d syn see NATURAL (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)
We the naïve believe in making mistakes. Without apology. And in the presence of others, even. We believe in answering questions in class incorrectly. Not for the sake of being wrong, but because we believe in process. And because we believe in process, we also believe that learning through making mistakes is one way of moving forward.
We the naïve are prepared to enter the institution with our own approaches to language and method. We aim to exit the institution with our language and methods intact.
That said, we the naïve are open to new approaches. Experiments. Processes. But we refuse to conform or assimilate in order to gain the approval of our peers or mentors.
We the naïve admit that up until this point, we have never heard of Hanna Weiner, Gary Sullivan or John Cayley.
We the naïve admit that up until this point we have never heard of Walter Benjamin, Mikhail Bakhtin, Georg Lukacs. We also admit that we have probably spent more time playing fetch with a dog named Theory than reading theory.
We the naïve admit that up to this point, we have never heard of flarf.
We admit that we do not like flarf. Very much. But we will continue to interact with it, because in everything we like or do not like, there is something to be learned. And where there is something to be learned, there is something to write about. And even if we don’t write about it, this something changes us. And where there is change, there is progress. And what is the act of generating and creating without progress?
We the naïve admit that we have roots in spoken word.
We the naïve believe that spoken word is poetry.
We the naïve are staging a coup to wrestle the word dismal from all conversations about possibilities, futures and outlooks for writers/poets in the United States of America.
We the naïve believe that there is no one way to write. To teach. To learn. And therefore, we dare to believe that our contributions in class (as teacher and student) are valuable.
We the naïve believe in introducing ourselves to other writers because we want to know and work with them, not because they will get us somewhere in the industry. We understand that this may mean the difference between having our work published and not having our work published. But we the naïve don’t give a fuck.
We the naïve choose to refrain from shit-talking.
But we are invested in creating open dialogue around issues and conflicts that may arise amongst our peers and others in the literary/art world.
We the naïve dare to reconnect our bodies with our brains by writing our bodies back into our work. By doing so, we encourage you to re-inhabit your own body.
We dare to reference emotion in our work.
We dare to write above the horizon of the new sentence.
We dare to employ lyricism and narrative.
We dare to use plain language.
We dare to write poems that feel like falling in love
We dare to use the phrase falling in love in a manifesto.
We the Naïve also dare to push ourselves. To go to the reading even if we don’t like the book. To give responses and feedback on work we don’t know how to begin to approach. To write flarf.
We the naïve believe in exploring resistance before we give ourselves over to it.
We believe in the power of collaboration.
Which means we believe in bridge-building.
Building bridges to connect the medias within which we work.
Bridges spanning the gaps of our histories.
Bridges stretched across the divides of our gendered bodies.
We the naïve believe in creating work that will dismantle the messages we have inherited from the white supremacist capitalist heterosexist patriarchy that teaches us to hate our bodies, our feelings, our work and each other.
We hope to take on this task in the least patronizing way possible.
We dare to believe that our work is important. (Which is not to say that anyone else’s work is less important).
We believe that certain compositions of letters and words we’ve assembled at some point have made others (including ourselves) feel less alone.
If nothing else, we the naïve believe in you.
click here to read a companion manifesto
click here to read another companion manifesto