Sad Giraffe Café is a collection of prose poems which together form a shifting progressive narrative. There are three recurring themes: an imaginary and sinister kingdom, a young wanderer named Alice, and a shape-shifting, time-travelling, first person narrator. The poems seem to be devoid of past or future, existing in an unstable, and at time apocalyptic present. They are peopled by strangers and lodged in an ‘elsewhere’ which is also somehow familiar. They have the feel of dreams masquerading as real events, or else of real events masquerading as dreams.
"Richard Gwyn’s collection treads an unerringly unsteady line along the borders between dream and vivid observation, between sensual and laconic, between prose and poetry. Animas and alter-egos, ghosts of novels and travelogues, of the archaic / archetypal and of the contemporary populate the ‘restless geography’ where these wry and curiously wise short fictions are at home."
"Why do these quickfire narratives work so well? Partly, I think, because they reach out in two directions: to private life with its warm detail, and to history."
"Gwyn has an undoubted gift for the trajectory of his short texts, and an eye for telling details and the way to juxtapose them against other such details that makes the poems very striking."
"The prose poems in Richard Gwyn's Sad Giraffe Cafe from Arc Press take the form of fables, in a manner not dissimilar from Borges or Calvino. Most of these fables are less than a page long and are linked through recurring themes: an imaginary kingdom, a wanderer named Alice and a narrator who explores a past which veers from the streetwise real to dreamlike shifts in perspective. There is a haunting quality throughout... Part of the fun is in identifying which character is talking in any given piece and temporarily entering that character's world before it slips away into a different space and time. The different voices form a kind of collective, but it is a collective which operates in a dangerously disembodied universe, where we are never free of the past and where we are already haunted by the future. But there are an infinite number of pasts and futures, which are only made real in the telling of them... Go on, go and buy one of these books! Bark at the shape of air!"
Ian Seed, Stride
Richard Gwyn grew up in Crickhowell, South Wales. He studied social anthropology at the LSE and worked in factories and as a milkman, before leaving London to spend ten years in aimless travel, settling for periods in Greece and Spain. He returned to the UK in the 1990s and took a PhD in Linguistics at Cardiff University, where he now directs the MA in Creative Writing. He is the author of five collections of poetry and two novels, The Colour of a Dog Running Away and Deep Hanging Out. In addition he has written many articles and essays and reviews new fiction for The Independent. He has translated poetry from Spanish and Catalan, and his own poetry and fiction have appeared in several languages.