Brian Patten

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Brian Patten (photo by Hugo Glendinning)
Brian Patten (photo by Hugo Glendinning)

Brian Patten (born 7 February 1946, Liverpool, Lancashire, England) is an English poet, born in a working-class neighbourhood near the docks. He left school at fifteen, and was hired by a private newspaper called "The Bootle Times" to write a column on popular music. One of his first articles was on Roger McGough and Adrian Henri, who later joined Brian in forming the performance group called the Liverpool Poets. The group performed poetry for audiences and also released an anthology called The Mersey Sound, which sold thousands of copies.

Patten received early encouragement from Philip Larkin, and Charles Causley once commented: "[Patten] 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'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."

The collections Storm Damage (1988) and Armada (1996) are however more various, 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. And yet he can still be extraordinarily funny in work that relates back to childhood and is echoed in his famous collections of comic verse for children, notably Gargling With Jelly and Thawing Frozen Frogs.

Patten is now regarded as one of Britain's leading contemporary poets, writing extensively for children as well as adults. He is a highly engaging performer, giving readings frequently. Over the years he has read alongside such poets as Pablo Neruda, Allen Ginsberg, Stevie Smith, Laurie Lee, and Robert Lowell. Also acknowledged as one of Europe's foremost poets, 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.

See also

  • The Mersey Sound
  • Liverpool Poets

Brian Patten also went to Sefton Park School in the Smithdown Road area of Liverpool as a boy where he was noted for his essays and greatly encouraged in his work by Harry Sutcliffe his form teacher.

Selected bibliography

Poetry for adults:

  • The Mersey Sound
  • Little Johnny's Confession
  • Notes to the Hurrying Man
  • The Irrelevant Song
  • Vanishing Trick
  • Grave Gossip
  • Love Poems
  • Storm Damage
  • Grinning Jack (selected poems)
  • Armada

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


  • The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry
  • Essay on Patten
  • Brian Patten
  • An interview from Liverpool's 'Nerve' magazine
  • Contemporary writers
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