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Review: Sad Giraffe Café, by Richard Gwyn

Richard Gwyn's sequence of prose poems Sad Giraffe Cafe, creates a vertiginous and anachronistic narrative where the geography would not stay still and where dreams and realities collide and intermingle through the voice of a shape-shifting first person narrator. The book opens with an epigraph from Baudelaire's Le Voyage, Et puis, et puis encore? Gwyn wrestles with the form of prose poems, and poem after poem he pieces anecdotal glimpses, observations, memories, or stories, generating a deceptively progressive journey or narrative that features the girl in the tutu, a red-nosed clown, would-be Spartan warriors, an anonymous king, Chagall's horses, and a mysterious wanderer Alice who is able to echo the Baudelairean game, saying that all this goes on, all this is connected [...] and it goes on and on. The book ends with the title poem in which those who stay too long in the Sad Giraffe Cafe grow very long necks but we, the guardians of the place, know that the Cafe exists as long as we re-tell and repeat its story. Although it is not often clear what actually goes on in these poems, the book does create a vivid, marginal and at times comically nonsensical world that provides a new texture to our experience.