A Sack of Midnight: Leaves from the Mabinogion by Cardinal Cox. Poetry chapbook review

 A SACK OF MIDNIGHT: LEAVES FROM THE MABINOGION by Cardinal Cox. Hilltop Press  p/b £2.50

Reviewed by Ian Hunter

First of all, what a great little poetry pamphlet, except……I hate the cover, just don’t like it at all, and accept that I may well be in a minority of one, but given that artist, Ian Brown’s work is dotted throughout Cox’s poetry – there are some good A to B illustrations of a fish and a dolman, combined with more simplistic, almost tapestry-like drawings which have layers of depth (you can imagine them hanging in a castle or stately home), and some absolute crackers involving dragons – I give you the dragon drawing below the introduction or the full-length one on page five of two dragons fighting which is simply stunning, which I suggest would have made a great cover.

Anyways, on to the poems. Cox has been inspired by the “Mabinogion” – the collection of 11 Medieval Welsh folk tales that were translated by Lady Charlotte Guest and were first put into written form in the 11th Century, but go back a lot further than that. We get a hint of Lady Charlotte’s unconventional life in Cox’s introduction, and each poem is accompanied by a footnote relating its place within the Mabinogian.

As someone who writes poems and occasionally draws inspiration from the work of PJ Harvey (a couple of them have graced the pages of “Dark Horizons”) and the Pop Art movement to write a variety of “themed” poems. Cox is to be admired for his ability to be creative within the confines of the original tales. Some of these poems have been seen elsewhere, some may have been written especially for the collection, but I particularly liked the three plague poems, “From the Land in the Lakes Reflection”, “Birds of Rhiannon”, “Pryderi Returns to Dyved”, “Quest of Maxen”, “Arthur in Hell”, and “Lailoken Closes the Book”.

Great poems, great art, great pamphlet. Recommended.