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Patten expresses a general preoccupation with romantic love in a majority of his poems. Along with affection, he expresses the heartbreak of longing, disappointment, and regret connected to the various objects of affection. The women mentioned are loosely described and generally self-admitted to be figments of the imagination, the perfected versions of women his narrators actually love. When romance enters the scene, inevitably heartbreak follows. No protagonist is allowed to escape a love affair unscathed or happily. Much of the ideas communicated relate to the painful and difficult nature of loving somebody after the romance fades.
As Patten himself has aged, his poems have turned to ideas surrounding age and death. Everyone dies. It's inescapable. Why do people struggle to make peace with this concept? Patten may not know the answer, but he sure explores the question. He features graveyards and lost lovers and his own gradual progression toward the grave. Patten does not seem to fear death so much as loathe the loss of his former physical prowess. As his joints ache and creak, he remembers a time when he didn't notice they even existed. Here too is a hint of regret only recently discovered, regret for wasted time.
Similar to the aging theme, temporality features prominently in Patten's poetry. He devotes multiple poems to discussing how things fade and disappear, from beauty to friends to joy and the like. In the poem "One Another's Light" there's a hint that Patten's memory may be failing him. He talks about losing people's faces and not recalling locations of important life events. Time rolls on, but sometimes someone forgets that it ever began and that it must end. Patten remains thoroughly conscious of the temporary nature of life, taking time to memorialize certain experiences and ideas which he hopes not to be forgotten.
As with most poets, nature is common theme amongst Patten's poems. He uses it metaphorically to compare attributes of people. He marvels at the beauty of small moments like a quiet snowfall or the birds' calls. By calling attention to the minute details of his surroundings, Patten forces his readers to slow down and experience theirs. He is drawing attention to the elements of life which people often take for granted. This is especially humbling where nature is concerned because the plants and the dirt have preceded mankind by billions of years.
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