Liz Niven



Black Swan Moment with Daughter

You sailed into the room with newspapers,

asked about the asterisk I'd inked against the phrase,

A Black Swan Moment.

I waxed eloquent for a while;

how Australian discoverers

thought all swans were white,

till they found black swans in their new land.

You left the room,

brought back, from your laden bookcase,

a thick hardback, just published;

The Black Swan Moment.

You agreed it was an amazing theory,

knew the philosophy that

one moment can alter

our thoughts, attitudes, lives.

I remember the two year old you,

talking incessantly;

watch you turn now,

return your book to its shelf,

glide out of the room,

towards the rest of your life.

I'd long suspected you might fly.

Reviews of Burning Whins

‘Liz Niven’s latest poetry collection is the kind of stumbled upon gem that should be kept handy and dipped into again and again. The range of Niven’s observations and the eloquence of her verse are remarkable. The opening section of ‘An Turas’ was inspired by a nine-destination tour of the Highlands and Islands to which the poet has applied her keen eye for the multifarious stories that can arise from the seemingly mundane drudge of air travel.

‘Merrick tae Criffel’ showcases Niven’s talent for exploring Scotland’s language and culture in startling new ways, including an ingenious conversation between two peaks, bemoaning  the fallout from the Foot and Mouth epidemic.

‘Picasso’s Timeshrae’ contains some astute reflections on art; and, in ‘Found Objects’, the poet has fun picking apart and reassembling overheard fragments, phrases, clichés and remembered conversations from the banalities of airline magazines to the cold, hard demands of a child seeking a really exciting bedtime story. - Allan Radcliffe in The List

Few could turn something quite as dull and soulless as a questionnaire into a poem, but in ‘Barra Airport’ Niven does it beautifully: ‘Any comments?/Beware the Barra flight can enter your soul/leave part of your heart like driftwood/on a Hebridean shore.’ This collection is divided into four parts – the first concerns travel to the highlands and islands; the second with the countryside; the third with art and the fourth an eclectic ‘Found Objects’. All four parts contain some poems in Scots, and Niven often uses the vernacular either to puncture the pompousness of official language, or to drive home a political message. It’s hard to escape the politics in the poetry, although Niven writes without being pedantic. Based on the foot-and-mouth crisis, ‘Merrick tae Criffel’ is a dialogue between two hills, one speaking in English, and is by turns angry, pitiful, desperate. It also extremely effectively shows just how musical Scots is by comparison: ‘I’ve heard many a sad tale this year …Aye, vices wull be heard again/ askin questions, speirin o why guid beasts wir kilt at aw? Speirin wis it aw fir the sake o siller?’ - Scottish Review of Books Vol. 1, No.2

A memorable collection from a poet well versed in Scotland’s languages. - Anne Donovan Sunday Herald Best Reads of 2005

The intimacy and care Niven exerts in her poems to describe a contemporary Scotland, coupled with the humor of the people, and how the country fits in on an international level make this book a pleasure to read. She is attentive to not only her landscape, but how she interacts in a setting as well, “On with the hard hat in canary yellow/ (appropriate colour to match my cowardice).”  This book, through insight, allows the reader to feel closer to Scotland whether the reader has lived in this country all his or her life, or is just passing through. - Lauren Pope: Edinburgh Review of Books.

Reviews of Stravaigin

"The stance that Liz Niven takes, that the Scots are internationalists, travelling, commentating and contributing, makes this collection unique and important, particularly as the poet frequently uses the Scots language to address other cultures and by doing so reclaims our mother tongue as literary, contemporary and internationally valid" - Janet Paisley, Poet & Writer

‘…what makes Stravaigin important, beyond the sheer beauty and warmth of its poems, is that both these different wavelengths reach us and touch us, and that whatever tone or mode she is using, Liz Niven's voice is wry, warm, and human.’ - Alastair Reid

‘This collection of relatively recent work from the leading Scottish poet Liz Niven is a refreshing wash in the rare waters of minstrel poetry.’ - The List.

‘Niven's earthy humour and acute eye for detail make Stravaigin a collection well worth checking out.’ - The Big Issue.

‘…a more lyrical and incisive vision than this could not be hoped for. A perfect foil for Irvine Welsh.’ - Buzz Books.

‘Affirming and resonant, she's a worthy heir to MacDiarmid's crown.’ - Waterstone's, Bath

‘Liz Niven's poetry is mature and humane…Her feminism is another aspect of her enlightened stance.’ - PNReview

‘Gutsy and confident’ - Scottish Studies Review ASLS.

‘I find her use of Scots modern and inventive, witty and not smelling of the dictionary.’ - Dorothy McMillan, editor of Modern Scottish Women Poets pub. Canongate.



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