Biography of Brian Patten
Born near Liverpool's docks, he 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 best-selling poetry anthology called 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 honoured with the Freedom of the City of Liverpool.
Brian Patten's Works:
Poetry collections for adults
The Mersey Sound
Little Johnny's Confession
Notes to the Hurrying Man
The Irrelevant Song
Selected Poems Penguin Books
The new Collected Love Poems
Books for children
The Elephant and the Flower
Gargling With Jelly
Mr Moon's Last Case
Thawing Frozen Frogs
Juggling With Gerbils
The Story Giant
Impossible Parents (Series)
The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry
The Puffin Book of Modern Children's Verse
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Brian Patten Poems
And Nothing Is Ever As You Want It To Be
You lose your love for her and then It is her who is lost, And then it is both who are lost, And nothing is ever as perfect as you want it to be.
When I think of her sparkling face And of her body that rocked this way and that, When I think of her laughter, Her jubilance that filled me,
When you wake tomorrow
I will give you a poem when you wake tomorrow. It will be a peaceful poem. It won’t make you sad. It won’t make you miserable.
The Day I Got My Finger Stuck Up My Nose
When I got my finger stuck up my nose I went to a doctor, who said, "Nothing like this has happened before, We will have to chop off your head."
Sometimes it happens
And sometimes it happens that you are friends and then You are not friends, And friendship has passed. And whole days are lost and among them
Gust Becos I Cud Not Spel
Gust becos I cud not spel It did not mean I was daft When the boys in school red my riting Some of them laffed
You come to me quiet as rain not yet fal...
You come to me quiet as rain not yet fallen Afraid of how you might fail yourself your dress seven summers old is kept open in memory of sex, smells warm, of boys,
Minister for Exams
When I was a child I sat an exam. This test was so simple There was no way i could fail.
He said: 'Let's stay here Now this place has emptied
In Tintagel Graveyard
Who brought flowers to this grave? I, said the wren. I brought them as seeds and then Watched them grow.
'There's something new in the river,' The fish said as it swam. 'It's got no scales, no fins and no gills, And ignores the impassable dam.'
I have changed the numbers on my watch
I have changed the numbers on my watch, And now perhaps something else will change. Now perhaps At precisely 2a.m.
The Right Mask
One night a poem came up to a poet From now on, it said, you must wear a mask. What kind of mask? asked the poet. A rose mask, said the poem.
The innocence of any flesh sleeping
Sleeping beside you I dreamt I woke beside you; Waking beside you I thought I was dreaming.
The Right Mask
One night a poem came up to a poet
From now on, it said, you must wear a mask.
What kind of mask? asked the poet.
A rose mask, said the poem.
I've used it already, said the poet,
I've exhausted it.
Then wear the mask that's made out of
a nightingale's song, use that mask.
Oh, it's an old mask, said the poet,