© Image by Caroline Forbes

Brian Patten

(b. 1946)

"These are undiluted poems, beautifully calculated, informed - even in their darkest moments - with courage and hope" - Charles Causley

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Select bibliography

  • The Liverpool Scene, (contributor), Donald Carroll 1967 - out of print
  • The Mersey Sound: Penguin Modern Poets 10, (Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten), Penguin 1967 / 1980 / 2005
  • Little Johnny's Confession, Allen and Unwin 1967 - out of print
  • Notes to the Hurrying Man: Poems Winter '66-Summer '68, Allen and Unwin 1969 - out of print
  • The Elephant and the Flower: Almost-Fables, Allen and Unwin 1970 - out of print
  • Walking Out: The Early Poems of Brian Patten, Traniscan 1971 - out of print
  • When You Wake Tomorrow, Turret Books 1971 - out of print
  • And Sometimes it Happens, Steam Press 1972 - out of print
  • Jumping Mouse, Allen and Unwin 1972 - out of print
  • The Eminent Professors and the Nature of Poetry as Enacted Out by Members of the Poetry Seminar One Rainy Evening, Poem of the Month Club 1972 - out of print
  • The House That Jack Built: Poems for Shelter (co-edited with Pat Krett), Allen and Unwin 1973 - out of print
  • Mr. Moon's Last Case, Allen and Unwin 1975 - out of print
  • Emma's Doll, Allen and Unwin 1976 - out of print
  • Vanishing Trick Harper Collins, 1981
  • The Sly Cormorant and the Fishes: New Adaptations intro Poetry of the Aesop Fables, Kestrel 1977 - out of print
  • Grave Gossip, Allen and Unwin 1979 - out of print
  • Gangsters Ghosts and Dragon Flies: A Book of Story Poems (editor), Allen and Unwin 1981 - out of print
  • Love Poems, Allen and Unwin 1981
  • Gargling with Jelly: A Collection of Poems, Kestrel 1985 - out of print
  • Storm Damage, Unwin Hyman 1988
  • Puffin Portable Poets, (Brian Patten, Kit Wright, Roger McGough), Puffin 1990 - out of print
  • Thawing Frozen Frogs, Viking Children's 1990
  • The Puffin Book of Twentieth Century Children's Verse (editor), Viking Children's Books 1991 (revised Puffin 1999)
  • Impossible Parents, Walker 1994 - out of print
  • The Utter Nutters, Viking Children's Books 1994 - out of print
  • Storm Damage, Flamingo 1995
  • Armada, Flamingo 1996
  • Another Day on Your Foot and I Would Have Died (John Agard, Wendy Cope, Roger McGough, Adrian Mitchell and Brian Patten), Macmillan Children's Books 1997 - out of print
  • The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry (editor), Puffin 1998
  • Five Finger-Piglets: Poems (with Brian Patten, Jackie Kay, Carol Ann Duffy and Gareth Owen), Macmillan Children's Books 1999 - out of print
  • The Blue and Green Ark: An Alphabet for Planet Earth, Scholastic Press 1999 - out of print
  • Juggling with Gerbils, Puffin 2000
  • The Impossible Parents Go Green, Walker 2000
  • The Walker Book of Funny Stories, Walker 2000
  • The Story Giant, Flamingo 2001
  • Ben's Magic Telescope, Puffin 2003
  • The Monster's Guide to Choosing a Pet Penguin Books Ltd, 2005
  • Brian Patten Reading from his poems, CD, The Poetry Archive, 2006
  • The Puffin Book of 20th Century Children's Verse Ed. Penguin Books Ltd, 2006
  • Selected Poems, Penguin Books 2007
  • The Collected Love Poems Harper Perennial 2007
Brian Patten (b. 1946) has written many books of poetry for adults and children, as well as prose and drama for stage and radio. He is the youngest of the Liverpool poets who, in the 1960s, along with Adrian Henri and Roger McGough, revitalised the idea of poetry as a performance art as well as something written for the page. Their joint collection, The Mersey Sound, was published by Penguin in 1967 and became a bestseller over several decades. All three poets were given the Freedom of the City of Liverpool in 2001. Patten is also an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moore's University, and has received awards including an Eric Gregory Award, an Arts Council award, and a Cholmondeley Award.

His poetry for both adults and children is represented on this reading; he introduces this idea by saying that "I thought I would begin with children's poems, and then slowly grow up as the reading progresses." A Patten poem, however, rarely falls clearly into either category, which shows both that his adult poetry has a clarity that opens it to a younger reader, and that his children's poems carry depths that will speak to adult readers. As he says of 'A Small Dragon', "Sometimes poems that were never intended for children get adopted by them" - and the mournful excuses of 'Mr Ifonly' will strike a chord with almost anyone.

One theme that informs almost all the work is a devotion to the full experience of life and the imagination. 'Geography Lesson' will fill you with an urge to "leave / and sail across a warm blue sea", while 'A Blade of Grass' mourns the adult loss of the ability to find the beauty in a blade of grass. In his adult poems, this includes a devotion to love in all its stages - a theme for which Patten is rightly well-known, which makes the title of one of his best-known books, Love Poems, completely apposite. Yet there is much variety within this, both in terms of his skilful use of fixed and free poetic forms and in his material itself, which includes touching elegies, to Stevie Smith and Patten's mother, retold fables and a tribute to Roald Dahl, another writer who could write for all ages.

Patten, like the other Mersey Sound poets, is a very experienced performer, able to pitch the performance of each poem precisely. Funny, thoughtful, uplifting or mournful, each poem in this recording demonstrates The Times' description of his "magic ability to turn radiant imagination loose".

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 4 August 2005 at The Audio Workshop, London, UK and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Brian Patten's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"I feel that poetry permits us to wake up our memory and association and view familiar things in a different way. If I was to define poetry, I would say, 'One of the many things a poem can do / Is remind us what we forgot we knew'" - Brian Patten


2002 Cholmondeley Award

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