Quiet Lightning, the long-running SF Bay Area reading series, had its final regular reading on February 7, 2022. QL hasn’t closed up shop. They are continuing to sponsor special events. It’s just that the monthly (most lately bimonthly) “literary mixtape” is no more.
Quiet Lightning was a new creature on the scene when it debuted. I was used to the standard reading featured two poets and an open mic. Sure, you could find group readings or all-opens or features without opens. But QL curated its readings, that is, if you wanted to read, you had to submit your work ahead of time, and the curators for that month would put together the pieces they wanted in the order they preferred. When you read for them, you were vocalizing the chosen piece. Readers were cautioned not to ramble on about how grateful they were or how they came to write the poem/story/essay. “Just read it and get off the stage.”
I kind of missed the poets apologizing for an unworkshopped poem or shuffling through pages for one that was “right here.” But it was an interesting new idea, a hybrid between a magazine and reading — and you got both.
It took me several tries to get into Quiet Lightning. I bought past issues of Sparkle and Blink, the little magazine that is available at each reading and which includes all the work read on a particular night. I don’t know that they helped me figure out what a “Quiet Lightning poem” was, but judging by what of mine ultimately did get picked, I’d say socially relevant or personal testimony pieces had a leg up. It was nice that they didn't mind if a piece had been previously published. "Personal Testimony" was originally published in Spillway.
Quiet Lightning moved around, every month popping up in a new venue. That was ambitious, but must have been a logistical hassle. "Since December 2009 we've presented 1,790 readings by 960 authors in 146 shows and 119 books, selected by 77 different curators and performed in 91 venues, appearing everywhere from dive bars and art galleries to state parks and national landmarks," QL says. Come the pandemic QL migrated to Zoom, as so many did. Thus the library you see behind me in the video is my own.
Sparkle and Blink #113 is available online.
The readings were all recorded, too.
Glenn Ingersoll reading "Personal Testimony"