Admittedly, it was not a great evening for reading poetry, or for having poetry read to you. The swampy and breezeless steam of August made it a much better night for Dairy Queen. But that didn’t prevent 100 or so hardy souls from cramming into a small, non-air-conditioned room in The Soap Factory and listening politely to some of our area’s most accomplished writers and poets read from their latest work—work specifically written for the evening at hand.
The event was part of a monthly series called Talking Image Connection (TIC), a quirky program that invites local writers to respond in words to various forms of visual art, and to present what they have written amidst the very work that inspired it, thereby fueling an artistic exchange of ideas that otherwise would not happen. The art itself is essentially a “prompt,” and the writers are free to respond however they wish.
Saturday night’s event was a bit of a departure in that the presenters were part of a group of writers chosen to participate in The Soap Factory’s H. O. T. (Hot of The) “pop-up” publishing experiment, an even quirkier project that involved the Soap Factory publishing ten chap-books a week for three weeks during the month of August. That the name of the venture so perfectly reflected the temperature in the room was chalked up to coincidence, but I’m not so sure. They didn’t even turn on a fan.
Still, those who braved the heat in the name of literature were rewarded with some engaging and entertaining material. The husband-and-wife team of George and Heidi Farrah presented poetry that they co-wrote, a feat of marital cooperation that deserved applause all by itself. Local playwright and screenwriter David Grant read an amusing story about how he learned to speak “dog,” on a winter night’s walk. Satish Jayaraj, a writer of YA (young adult) fantasy novels, presented a hilarious essay in which he admitted that if he had all of superman’s powers—x-ray vision, supersonic hearing, the ability to slow things down with your mind—he wouldn’t waste his time fighting crime; no, he’d waste his time being a poet. Beth Mayer read a short story about getting her fortune told as a youngster, and poet Kathryn Kysar read several poems, the most entertaining of which was a take-off on the popular Facebook questionnaire that asks people to share 25 things about themselves. Her poem was about the 25 things she did not share on Facebook.
I’ve been to a few of these TIC events. Each one has been completely different, but each one has also contained moments that I was glad I had the luck to witness. The next TIC event—at the Soap Factory on Sept. 23, at 8 p.m.—sounds particularly promising. The art “prompt” will be the Soap Factory’s Minnesota Biennial show called “A Theory of Values.” The writers presenting will be E.G. Bailey, Barrie Borich, Tim Nolan, Lynette Reini-Grandell, and Christian Villarroel.
If we’re lucky, the weather will show some mercy. But even if it doesn't, it won’t matter, because the sort of people who go to these things are a special breed. Some people suffer for their art; we suffer just for the fun of it.