Brian Patten: Poems


Brian Patten (born 29 February 1946) is an English poet and author.


Born near the Liverpool docks, Patten attended Sefton Park School in the Smithdown Road area of Liverpool, where he was noted for his essays and greatly encouraged in his work by Harry Sutcliffe, his form teacher. He left school at fifteen and began work for The Bootle Times writing a column on popular music. One of his first articles was on Roger McGough and Adrian Henri, two pop-oriented Liverpool poets who later joined Patten in a poetry anthology titled The Mersey Sound, drawing popular attention to his own contemporary collections Little Johnny's Confession (1967) and Notes to the Hurrying Man (1969). Patten received early encouragement from Philip Larkin.

The collections Storm Damage (1988) and Armada (1996) are more varied, the latter featuring a sequence of poems concerning the death of his mother and memories of his childhood. Armada is perhaps Patten's most mature and formal book, dispensing with much of the playfulness of former work. He has also written comic verse for children, notably Gargling With Jelly and Thawing Frozen Frogs.

Patten's style is generally lyrical and his subjects are primarily love and relationships. His 1981 collection Love Poems draws together his best work in this area from the previous sixteen years. Tribune has described Patten as "the master poet of his genre, taking on the intricacies of love and beauty with a totally new approach, new for him and for contemporary poetry." Charles Causley once commented that he "reveals a sensibility profoundly aware of the ever-present possibility of the magical and the miraculous, as well as of the granite-hard realities. These are undiluted poems, beautifully calculated, informed - even in their darkest moments - with courage and hope."

Patten writes extensively for children as well as adults. He has been described as a highly engaging performer, and gives readings frequently. Over the years he has read alongside such poets as Pablo Neruda, Allen Ginsberg, Stevie Smith, Laurie Lee and Robert Lowell. His books have in recent years been translated into Italian, Spanish, German and Polish. His children's novel Mr Moon's Last Case won a special award from the Mystery Writers of America Guild. In 2002 Patten accepted the Cholmondeley Award for services to poetry. Together with Roger McGough and the late Adrian Henri, he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Liverpool.

Selected bibliography

Publications with others

  • The Mersey Sound (1967)

Poetry collections for adults

  • Little Johnny's Confession
  • Notes to the Hurrying Man
  • The Irrelevant Song
  • Vanishing Trick
  • Grave Gossip
  • Love Poems
  • Storm Damage
  • Grinning Jack
  • Armada
  • Selected Poems Penguin Books
  • The new Collected Love Poems
  • The projectionist's nightmare
  • Geography lesson

Books for children

  • The Elephant and the Flower
  • Jumping Mouse
  • Emma's Doll
  • Gargling With Jelly
  • Mr Moon's Last Case
  • Jimmy Tag-Along
  • Thawing Frozen Frogs
  • Juggling With Gerbils
  • The Story Giant
  • Impossible Parents, illustrated by Arthur Robins (Walker Books, 1994), OCLC 31708253
  • The Impossible Parents Go Green, illus. Robins (Walker, 2000)
  • The Most Impossible Parents, illus. Robins (Walker, 2010)

As editor

  • The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry
  • The Puffin Book of Modern Children's Verse
See also
  • Peter Edwards
References External links
  • Official website
  • Brian Patten at British Council: Literature
  • An interview from Liverpool's Nerve magazine
  • Interview with Roger McGough about 40 years of the Mersey Poets
  • Articles by Brian Patten on the 5th Estate blog
  • Portraits of Brian Patten at National Portrait Gallery
  • Brian Patten at Library of Congress Authorities, with 38 catalogue records

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