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

A blade of grass

Brian Patten

Blake's Purest Daughter

Brian Patten

The Minister for Exams

Brian Patten

Geography Lesson

Brian Patten

A small dragon

Brian Patten

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About Brian Patten

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 Saying:

"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

Selected bibliography

The Monster's Guide to Choosing a Pet Penguin Books Ltd...

The Puffin Book of 20th Century Children's Verse Ed....

The Collected Love Poems Harper Perennial 2007


Selected Poems, Penguin Books 2007

Ben's Magic Telescope, Puffin 2003

The Story Giant, Flamingo 2001

The Walker Book of Funny Stories, Walker 2000

The Impossible Parents Go Green, Walker 2000

Juggling with Gerbils, Puffin 2000


The Blue and Green Ark: An Alphabet for Planet Earth,...

The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry (editor),...


Armada, Flamingo 1996


Storm Damage, Flamingo 1995


The Utter Nutters, Viking Children's Books 1994 - out of...

Impossible Parents, Walker 1994 - out of print

The Puffin Book of Twentieth Century Children's Verse (...


Thawing Frozen Frogs, Viking Children's 1990


Storm Damage, Unwin Hyman 1988


Gargling with Jelly: A Collection of Poems, Kestrel 1985...

Love Poems, Allen and Unwin 1981


Gangsters Ghosts and Dragon Flies: A Book of Story Poems...

Grave Gossip, Allen and Unwin 1979 - out of print

The Sly Cormorant and the Fishes: New Adaptations intro...

Vanishing Trick Harper Collins, 1981

Emma's Doll, Allen and Unwin 1976 - out of print

Mr. Moon's Last Case, Allen and Unwin 1975 - out of print

The House That Jack Built: Poems for Shelter (co-edited...

The Eminent Professors and the Nature of Poetry as...

Jumping Mouse, Allen and Unwin 1972 - out of print

And Sometimes it Happens, Steam Press 1972 - out of print

When You Wake Tomorrow, Turret Books 1971 - out of print

Walking Out: The Early Poems of Brian Patten, Traniscan...

The Elephant and the Flower: Almost-Fables, Allen and...

Notes to the Hurrying Man: Poems Winter '66-Summer '68,...

Little Johnny's Confession, Allen and Unwin 1967 - out...

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