Book Review – On the Shoulders of Lions
Every now and then you come across a book that resonates with your feelings and experiences. On the Shoulders of Lions is just such a book. Irreverent, fun, honest, sad and at times reflecting, it makes you laugh and cry, consider your feelings and just be.
Over my lifetime as a bookworm, spanning both literary jewels and trashy novellas, to factual books mostly history and politics, in English, Greek – both modern and classical, French and Russian, I have occasionally dabbled into poetry. From the classics of Homer, I always thought the wrong side won in the Iliad and loved the adventures of Odyseas, though I always disapproved of his sneaky underhand ways, to Roger McGough’s Summer with Monica which I loved in my early twenties and still continue to go back to now; via the modern Greek poets, Cavafi and his Ithaki which is my most treasured poem, to Seferis and his Salamis. I have always loved poems that have a certain sound and pace as well whilst resonating with my soul, but could also easily resonate with other people whatever their lives and circumstances.
After all, we always want to feel we are either living through the text we read or somehow the author understands our feelings, heartbreaks and triumphs.
Tina McNaughton’s poetry book does that in spades. From her; Sky watching, which must resonate with everyone who has ever felt the heart-breaking loss of a loved one to the Cinderella poem; One shoe which must surely portray the feelings of every modern woman or girl trying to find an independent fulfilling life, to I want to be too much! surely the cry of every human who has ever been told to tone it down so they can fit into what is normal to The ballad of Kev and Sue which must surely be an anthem for every unfaithful spouse or partner to What I’ve learned are gems that testify to a life well lived, to laughter and tears and fun.
I have been friends with Tina for many years and the poetry in this book is the exact sound of her voice - irreverent, funny, kind, occasionally risqué, but always honest. There is no pretence here, no need and no effort made to present us with a set persona, this is a book of poetry which unashamelessly gives a window into the person. This makes it a true treasure. You can read the poems laugh, cry, relax and be real.
In this time, as we emerge from a terrible pandemic, our world shaken by loss and fear, in the knowledge that for all the advances in our civilisation there are still things out there which are terrifying and so out of our control, which strip our veneer of security and stability, it is heart-warming to be able to dip into the poems and find something that either resonates, uplifts, makes us laugh, makes us question and try to find a way to our battered souls. We can for a brief moment forget the terrors that hide in the dark and take a deep breath and just be.
For me, personally, poetry has to have a certain rhythm, a certain mathematical progression. As if, deep in my heart, I’m somehow counting alongside the poet. Somehow the logic of the numbers for me underscores the feelings of the words and that makes sense of more tangled emotions and soothes my soul. Not every poem in this collection does that, but that so many of them do is priceless. Thank you, Tina.
Tina says these are not her best poems. There are more to come which please her more. All I can say - I can’t wait ...
Niki Nicolaou – Todd
31 May 2021