We Were Promised Flying Cars
Tell me a bit about the fruition of this book.
The concept for We Were Promised Flying Cars came to me as a fully formed idea one night while sleeping in a hotel room in Beirut. I felt a very strong desire to visit Beirut, a place I’d never been before. I can only describe the feeling as a sort of nostalgia for a place I’d never been before. In German there is a word for it called “fernweh” which is kind of like wanderlust but more specific.
I believe that We Were Promised Flying Cars was there waiting for me. I woke up in the middle of the night and jotted down the words “we were promised flying cars: 100 poems from the future” in the morning I looked at the piece of paper next to me and it made total sense. This was all happening just after the 2016 election and everything felt very confusing. My personal anxiety was through the roof, and our collective anxiety was amping up in a way I’d never experienced before. I felt it in the NYC subways, in the streets, in restaurants and everywhere else. Ultimately, this book was my way of coping with Future Shock, a phrase which futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler described as “a personal perception of too much change in too short a period of time.” We were on a path… and then overnight that path changed drastically and dramatically, globally, and we took a sharp right turn.
Limiting myself to strictly Haiku, a familiar form comprised of 3 lines of alternating five, seven, and five syllables, echoed feelings of finality and totality. Haiku, with its strict parameters, provides a necessary creative limitation in order to wrestle with the infinite possibilities the future holds. The haiku is established, the future is not. The haiku is perfect, the future is not. The haiku is predictable, the future is not. At times, I wanted to write more, but I could not because the form would not allow it. In these moments of frustration, I could only do one thing: figure out how to communicate my thoughts more clearly. The solution to my problem was always there and in these moments I found real peace in having a direction and path forward. It felt like writing stand-up comedy. Every poem had a punchline. After I’d written haiku for a few weeks, I found that it was the most effective way of communicating what I wanted to communicate. Additionally, I found the form to be accessible for people who don’t necessarily love poetry. This was important to me because I want people to read these.
What do you believe is humanity’s most toxic vice? What is yours?
War. It is the most barbaric and primitive thing we do. I cannot imagine killing another person for any reason. My most toxic vice is being too hard on myself. Every morning I wake up and feel like a failure. I think this comes from a lack of focus which stems from a desire to be 3-dimensional. I think I’m also potentially addicted to negative emotions because the feeling is most intense for me and subconsciously, I feel more alive when I’m under pressure—even if that pressure comes from myself.
In which ways do comedy and tragedy live in the same sphere, if at all?
Comedy and tragedy are the same with the exception of the ending. Right now, in this exact moment, we are living in both. I suppose whenever the world decides to end, we’ll know that it was a tragedy all along, but in this moment it's okay to laugh.
Is there a difference between prayer for change and call for action?
I suppose a call-to-action is more direct and assertive whereas a prayer for change is more passive and nebulous.
What is your favorite passage from this book?
I curated a selection of illustrations from 19th-century France called “En L'An 2000” (translated to “In the Year 2000”). The futuristic pictures (created by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists) in the 19th-century try to depict a future, which we most certainly never arrived at. It’s fun to think about our current predictions of the future and how they’ll be received and interpreted by people 100 years from now.
How do you hope people feel after reading We Were Promised Flying Cars?
I hope they feel a sense of relief and potentially a new sense of wonder. I write about so many different socio-political themes in the book and I hope readers finds something new to laugh at, get angry about, or be stimulated by. What does tomorrow look like? It looks like today with worse weather.