every month, raja and i get a number of submissions. it’s around 40, just not to keep a rabbit in the hat. of those 40, say, we really like about 22. as in want to feature those 22 pieces. is that too much? is that brazen or ignorant to tell you?
there is an allure to mystery. every lover of fiction knows this.
but our show is a likeness. we string it together out of your fictions, your poetic musings and self-truths. we string you together.
this is a community. the community itself is the fiction.
perhaps the greatest aspect of our nature, as mankind, is the chance to become that which was before only fiction. the chance to create the very notion—and thus possibility—of something, and then the natural yearning toward it because it is innately understood to be good.
that’s a convoluted description of the picnic we had on sept 6. quiet lightning is by nature a limited thing. we connect in so many ways outside of it. but it yet represents something more than just that which brought us together. it may just keep us straight and honest. it may give us something to strive for. it, or parts of it, may affect the very way we speak and understand the need for communication; we might owe our futures to its monthly warblings.
the point is possibility. i don’t know what flatmancrooked has to do with this except that they are almost definitely going to publish an annual Best of Quiet Lightning, and maybe that should still be a secret too because honestly until i see the thing i won’t believe it, either. FMC is one of my favorite small presses and this collaboration gives me great hope for the future of the written word. from the heart to the page (sorry, editors). if they do publish us, nic alea will almost certainly be in it. i filmed her first reading in an alleyway and if you look at the title of that video it says “unknown artist” and if you know anything about quiet lightning or san francisco literary culture right now you might laugh at this because we have all seen nic alea blossom into a featured artist. i’ve been told she started going to the corner as a timid nonspeaker and i have seen her as a neighborhood hero.
i’m talking about nic alea because she wasn’t in this show. but she was there in the park and at the show. i could just as easily talk about meghan thornton, who i also saw there and then filmed winning the poetry award at this year’s san francisco writers conference and then as one of three poets selected by jack hirschman to represent her district. she wasn’t in this one either, but she was there. other people were in this one.
my point is, we have all come a long way. i could keep going: our beloved friends and backbone contributors m.g. martin and alia volz are now running literary death match. lauren becker has started her own invaluable reading series and a powerhouse of an online literary journal. paul corman-roberts has started a series so strong it will make you angry. d.w. lichtenberg has started we who are about to die.
you could say, “hey evan, it’s easy to claim so much success when you have so many participants; these people would have done these things anyway.” maybe you’re right. my point is not to claim success. this is not a school, after all, in which we train participants to be a certain way or to become who they are. but it is a forum for that, to that end, and quiet lightning, I am proud to say, is certainly helping.
as litquake approaches, where a lot of this began, i am starting to reflect more than is healthy to maintain my routine. but then routine gives way to other routines. how did all of this happen? and, more precisely than, or beyond, “helping people become who they are,” to what end?
i overheard some people in the park ask “who’s reading @ QL this month?” the question is still who? i thought we were training people to think differently. not training, but illuminating the fallacy in this type of thinking. i don’t care if you have an MFA or an MBA or nothing more than a bag of M&Ms. who in this circle has the spirit to step into the middle, is compelled enough to let guard drop and be heard? this is a timing thing. it is a genuine, autonomous thing. the people reading have something to say right now. they have just said it. you are the audience that could make the difference between someone who has something to say and a reason to say it and someone who retreats into other people, or other, less desirable lives.
we walked down the street and did our poems and our fictions because this thing, quiet lightning, means something more than we do. but we still are not contained by it. we are far larger than this thing. without quiet lightning, we would still be who we are (the fact that this is not true for some people is incredible but true and the greatest affirmation anything could possibly have). without us, there would be no quiet lightning.
and there is its real worth. it is the thing that we have created together, and that we can continue to mold into our evolving communal aesthetic. nothing lasts. who cares what happens to it or to any of these reading series? (not me.) they are all just vessels, as we are just vessels. and i am happy we have this, and proud. but in a few years it will be but a righteous footnote in our sacred, ultimately forgotten stories. because we will have new stories and out of those new horizons. and we have not traveled the distance. nor have we hoisted our flags. for what we held earlier … that was only our hearts.
thanks to everyone who brought food to the picnic and to everyone who met up at mina dresden gallery. as the year comes around, we have our own spot in litquake. submissions are due by friday the 17th. quiet lightning, besides that righteous open mic signup in clarion alley, is the only democratic way to participate in this city, san francisco’s, annual literary festival. we created this. and we thank you for making it what it is. here’s to what it can—and will—be.
photos courtesy of matthew james decoster and martin holden (and more to come from timothy faust). also, thanks to robbie reaves for his beautiful artwork and to dawn andres for her consistently poppin’ design. we publish a book every month, you guys. not bad.