.A Prodigal Son of Santa Cruz Lit Returns

In the early 1970s, Robert Lundquist was both a rising star in, and the enfant terrible of, the Santa Cruz literary Renaissance that included the likes of Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock, William Everson, James D. Houston, Anne Steinhart (who was also a brilliant musician), Stephen Kessler, and Morton Marcus—with occasional appearances by one of Lundquist’s mentors, Charles Bukowski—in what was largely a male-dominated (and often sexist) milieu.

By his early 20s, the Los Angeles born-and-bred Lundquist had been published in the Nation, the Paris Review and designated by Rolling Stone as one of the “Best 100 American Poets.” In only a few years, Lundquist was a broken figure, lost in the bottle, and I presume, a variety of drugs and despair. His once-bright literary star had burned out.

I later came across a dark, poignant poem entitled “A Street,” in the highly respected UCSC literary journal Quarry West, that had been written by Lundquist. It was a knockout-brilliant poem chronicling Lundquist’s noir downtown L.A. childhood. But only the first segment of the poem appeared. I waited years to read the other half. It never came.

Cut to four decades later. Last fall, I learned that Lundquist was having his first full-length collection of poetry published, After Mozart (Heroin on 5th Street), by New River Press of London. I could hardly wait to get my hands on it. My anticipation was fully rewarded. In my mind, the collection (which includes the denouement of “A Street”) is one of the great works of American poetry to emerge in the last quarter century.

Lundquist, now sober and a practicing psychoanalyst in his beloved downtown Los Angeles, is coming to Bookshop Santa Cruz, this Thursday, April 25, at 7 p.m. Given European reviews of his book and various reports of his readings in London and Paris (and they have been exuberantly praiseworthy), it promises to be a literary celebration for the ages.

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Robert Lundquist will read from ‘After Mozart (Heroin on 5th Street),’ at Bookshop Santa Cruz on Thursday, April 25, at 7 p.m.


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