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National Poetry Day
Dear Brian.  Wishing you a happy National Poetry Day and to thank you for all the beautiful words over the years.
You are truly one of the best poets there has ever been. You can take credit for turning people on to poetry who would never have thought twice about it if one of your poems hadn't grabbed them. Thank you for making such a difference in the world,
Warmest wishes,  Carol  

Thanks for your best wishes on National Poetry Day, Carol. I’ve spent the afternoon of it sitting in the garden dipping in and out of Robert Lowell’s wonderful poetry collection, Imitations. They are his loose adaptations in to English of international poets like Rilke, Rimbaud, Sappo, Homer, Pasternak and some wonderful others I did not know existed. Brian.



Dear Mr. Patten,  
I hope you’re well. This is just a short email to say that for years I have been trying to find out who did a children’s version of Beowulf that I got in my Christmas stocking sometime in the early 2000s, and I found out today that it was you! So I just wanted to thank you for it, and say that because of it I went on to read Tolkien and Hughes and Heaney and then do Old English at university, and I think about your version of the story all the time. I work in an academic library now. I think I loved learning from the start, but reading Beowulf made me want to look deeper into everything.  Thank you, for everything. Thank you again,  Imogen

Dear Imogen, Thanks for the thumbs up. The book has been re-released in a slightly larger format so hopefully it will carry on inspiring. I called it Beowulf- Monster Slayer and simplified it vastly in the hope of, first grabbing the attention of, then inspiring, young readers. Lovely to think I might have managed that.
I love stories. My favourites for a while have been the Arabic trickster/Sufi stories that have been around a few thousand years and use humour to teach. A while ago I reduced about 88 of them into very short humorous (or devious) verses. You’ll find info about them on my Poem of the Month page. I’ve put a few up with explanations as to some of the many different meanings hidden inside them. Brian



Dear Mr. Patten, I recently replaced a copy of "Gargling with Jelly" as I recalled a poem from it from my childhood (in the 80's) and my copy had long since fallen apart. Re-reading a book I enjoyed immensely as a child for poems such as "The Trouble with My Sister" and "Pick-a-nose Pick" with new (older) eyes, has unexpectedly moved me. "The Newcomer", "Burying the Dog in the Garden", "The Bee's Last Journey to the Rose", "Looking for Dad", "The Plague and the Fox", "Tall Story" and my two favourites "The Children's Fall-Out Shelter" and "The Tree and The Pool" have really resonated with my values and innermost feelings. I often struggle to vocalise my troubles, but your poetry eloquently does what I fail to do myself. 
Thank you for your writing. The themes in the book are as relevant today as they were back then, and I sincerely hope you still enjoy writing and hope you and your nearest and dearest are safe and well during this very strange time. Sincerest thanks and warmest regards,
Dave Goshorn

Wonderful to get your email, Dave, and so glad you made contact. When I wrote Gargling With Jelly I smuggled in a handful of serious poems amongst the anarchic ones and funny ones in the hope that children might one day find them interesting as well. Of the serious poems in that collection, the one I feel most lucky to have written is ‘The Bee’s Last Journey to the Rose.’ Like another poem I wrote, A Small Dragon, it is both a Childrens’ poem and a love poem -  it’s a joy when poems materialise that work on many different levels. Brian



Sick Equation
Hi. I have never taken the slightest interest in poetry - just something for arty types. I am enthralled by science. I came across 'the sick equation' and read it through and suddenly felt touched. Almost to tears. So this is what poetry is about. Thanks for making me aware of all that I have missed out of. I have to thank you. 

Thanks for the vote of confidence David.
Glad the poem opened a window, or maybe just lifted a blackout curtain at the edge and a little light shone through. There’s an awful  lot of poetry I don’t relate to, so you’re not unusual. Am fascinated by science as well and as for arty, well, I’ve known two poets who were farmers, one who was a policeman, one obsessed with sailing his clapped out sixteen foot boat up the coast of Canada and into Alaska and one who was a professional boxer until he smashed the car he was driving into a wall. Best wishes, Brian



When was "Song for last year's wife" first published? 
I teach A Level literature and one of the units looks at love poetry from 1500 to the present. One poem I like to share with my students is "Song for last year's wife" (we compare it to Byron's 'When we two parted') and I'm often asked when your poem was written / first published. Can you help me out with an answer? Thank you. 

 God knows why I called the poem by that title. It was published in The Mersey Sound which appeared in 1967, a collection shared with Roger McGough and Adrian Henri. Back then the gestation of a book from acceptance to publication would sometimes be a year, so I guess I must have been twenty years old at the latest when I wrote it, possibly in 1966. It is one of the most “mature” of my poems in that collection. The title is arbitrary, perhaps I was simply thinking of an older couple and the word wife seemed appropriate. Strange you comparing it with the Byron poem. When I was thirteen or so I read that poem (So, We’ll Go No More a Roving) in an anthology of poetry. Mostly it was a collection of poets from 19th Century and earlier and it was the only one in the entire collection I was drawn to- because of its simplicity I suppose. Brian



Hello Brian. I saw you in Penzance earlier this year. Poetry has always found a
response in me but that evening, my soul did more than just respond.
Since then I am finding so much pleasure and meaning in your work and in
other poets work too. Thank you so much for that evening. You have awoken the poet in me.My very best wishes Nick Navratil

Thanks Nick, that poet in you was probably only having a short nap. They're pretty lazy buggers at the best of times. Brian



Winchester 1967 
Hello Brian, I am reading Phil Bowen’s book about the Mersey Poets, and the mentions of your time living in Winchester takes me back to the latter days of my schoolboy years at Winchester College. We were a kind of unofficial dead poets society before any of that was referred to in a movie. We used to illegally climb out our residences before dawn in order to escape the suffocation of our total educational establishment and read poems to each other, our own, and those of dead poets and very much living ones too! I don’t remember who established the connection to you, possibly my old friend Andrew Sclater, who after becoming an expert landscape gardener and building dry stone walls, is back writing poetry again I hear and giving live readings up Scotland and Northumberland way. At any rate, you used to give these wonderful readings, one I remember with Stevie Smith, who appeared in her canary yellow stockings reading Not Waving But Drowning and you mesmerizing us with your spoken poetry, starved as our emotional selves were for something real or even something magical that could transport us for a time into a wider and more imaginative world. Thanks for the memories and for being a messenger from that other world at a time when that was just what I needed, Best wishes, James Bennett 

Hello James,  Yes, remember you and your friend – I think there was another student as well who kept on going awol, whose father was a diplomat? Or maybe that was Andrew. I remember vividly most of my time in Winchester.  It was a magic place after Liverpool and all the razzmatazz and media feeding frenzy of the time. It seemed important to retreat from it. I remember the first special summer there, swimming in the river Itchen down in the water meadows and finding, somewhere near that school of yours, a tiny walled garden that no one seemed to visit.  I'd sit there writing most of the poems that ended up in my second book.
I was in Winchester doing a gig a few years ago. I looked round my old haunts, but – inevitably - the intensity had evaporated somewhat, though a few ghosts remained. Best wishes, Brian



Words on the Run
Hello Brian. I came to the first
Words on the Run in London back in 1995 I think and have loved your poetry ever since and been to hear you whenever I could. You read 'So Many Different Lengths of Time' from your notebook and it really touched me and brought tears to my eyes. My husband had died just a few years previously and it described so perfectly the indiscernible change from grief to calm. Thank you for all your insightful, funny and delightful poetry. Anne Mead



Stockton sixth form college  
My best friend and I came to see you 40 years ago when you kindly came to recite to a very small group of 17 year olds ( Roger McGough) had been a few months previously. We were stunned by the beauty of the words and as 'teenagers' felt this was poetry we could relate to. We are now nearly 60 but still discuss poetry (often with a glass of something), So thank you for generously giving your time all those years ago, we have never forgotten it and have continued to follow your work through out the years.  Annette Mitchell 

Hello Annette, great that your best friend back then is still your best friend now.  I'm chuffed the memory of that reading has stayed with you both. It'd be nice to raise a glass to whatever teacher it was that decided to bring poets into your school all those years ago. I'm putting on my coat and boots and going out into the garden in a minute or two. The badgers will be out snuffling for worms and the owls will be playing their oboes, as they have for many nights now.   I'll raise a glass to your teacher, whoever she or he is.  That's a promise!



Great Memory
Back in the 1960s I saw Brian read the most moving anti nuclear war poem I have ever heard. I thought it was called A Week Before It Happened, but I can find no link to such a poem online. Distant memory suggests it included a line something like: "A week before it happened, Mykovsky forgot to forget." Can you help me track this wonderful poem down? Thank you for a lifetime of inspiration. Paul Burnell

Wow Paul! Thanks for jogging my memory.  I'd forgotten about that poem entirely. I remember writing it- think the Myakovsky lines included something about his suicide note. I remember it was a prose poem written on an old typewriter in the attic at 32 Canning Street where I was living - Adrian was living down the road at number 64. I was 17 or 18 at the time. This was before the Mersey Sound book came out.  I've no idea what happened to the poem, or why it wasn't included in any of my early books. It might survive in a jumble of papers in the archive in Liverpool University. There was another written around that time called, I think, Popiludes, that began with Alfred Jarry (one of Adrian H's heroes) riding across an asylum on a rocking horse. Now you've reminded me,  a few more whisper in my head that never made it into print. Guess they escaped the aspic of the printed page. Hope all's well with you, best wishes, Brian. 



Thank you!
Brian, I found a copy of Notes to the Hurrying Man in a flea market in Liverpool back in the early 80s. I flipped it open and immediately fell hook, line and sinker for your work. That book (now falling apart) has accompanied me right throughout my life, wherever I have been. I went on to acquire more of your books and you inspired the writer in me. I am visiting Liverpool this summer and will be going to the Tonight at Noon exhibitions - just wanted to thank you for the poetry that has been huge part of my life. Leanne

Hello Leanne, Love the idea of books fishing for readers in flea markets. Glad it hooked you into a world of words and wonders, and do hope your own writing is blossoming. bp



The website
I have been a fan of Brian's work all my life and I am really enjoying the Poems of the Month and some of Brian's personal responses to comments which reveal a little more about him and his work. My question is would you ever consider writing an autobiography?  Eileen

Hello Eileen, For longer than I care to recall I’ve been writing one, on and off, though more off than on. It’s a bit of a daft thing for someone who’s basically a pretty private person to write. I keep putting it in a desk, then taking it out months, once even a year, later. Then I cross out bits while adding a bit less than I crossed out. I’m probably unwriting it more than writing it. A year or more ago it was shown to a couple of publishers- one editor wanted to take it, but never got it through the acquisition process, even after trying twice, the other thought being by a poet it wouldn’t really be financially viable for them. I can see their point. Whatever, I’m now very grateful to both of them, as recently it’s back out of the drawer for a final chapter. At least I think it is... Very best, Brian



The Irritation of Birds
I have translated some of Brian's poems into Spanish, just for fun. For years I have been haunted by this question: In "Inessential Things", when cats remember "the irritation of birds", who is the irritator, and who's the irritatee? Susana Marin 

Hello Susana, Lovely that you are teaching that poem to speak Spanish... What a complicated thing translation can be. A cat I had some time ago called Wiz would snooze in the garden beneath a tree and occasionally look up at the birds beyond his reach and twitch his nose and mouth in irritation.   I guess the birds would far more likely feel alarm than annoyance. You could say the cat was irritated with himself for not having wings to fly after them, but I guess that would be an entirely different poem!  :)  Very best, Brian



My Thanks
Just a brief word to thank you for your work, which has followed me (sometimes up close, sometimes at a distance) ever since I first came across it while working as a young man in the publicity department of publisher (your publisher at the time) George Allen & Unwin. Your poems have enriched my life - thank you for that. Nick Carding

Hello Nick. I've fond memories of Allen & Unwin, as no doubt you have, given the great location in town and our ages at the time. I think I might have been just 20 when I first entered the building. I’d recorded a poem for a popular early morning radio show hosted by Jack De Manio, in those days one of the few presenters who seemed willing to give poetry the space to breath. (It was usually corralled in the rarefied atmosphere of Radio 3.) Philip Unwin, the chairman of A&U heard the broadcast while shaving and wrote to me that same morning, inviting me to send a manuscript of poems. I was amazed, as it was quite an old fashioned company even back then. bp



I was looking at Marc Chagall's painting of a poet on the grass, it brought back a memory of Brian reading a poem about Ray Charles, who was seeing through his finger tips, this was in the 60's at the Hope Hall. Wish he well regards Mike Weinblatt 

Remember that poem, Mike. God knows where it is, or if it survived. I wrote it when I was sixteen (hastily but enthusiastically after being around at Adrian Henri's flat on Canning Street listening to his albums) - remember especially around that time one of Ada's favourite albums was the Charlie Mingus album - O Lord Don't Let Them Drop That Atom Bomb On Me. Remember also of course a poem of yours I published in underdog. bp



Dearest Brian
I have loved your beautiful poetry since the age of 18. On many occasions I skipped school to hear you read your poetry in various venues. I am now 52 and manage a nursing home in Wheldrake, York. I am holding a memorial service on 5th November for many people we have nursed and who are no longer with us. I will be reading your poem Many Different Lengths of Time. Just to say thanks for all of your wonderful poetry which always remains with me... Happy memories of your poetry readings X 


Reading in Worcester
Your reading at The Hive was so fantastic, the way you read and write your poems is so inspiring and gives off a humanity which seems quite rare now. You made an emotional connection with your audience that was just beautiful and in a world of growing capitalism and all sorts of frightening politics, you, as the poet provide hope and it's very necessary. Thank you so much Brian.  Catherine Morris


Ghost soldier in a classroom poem 
Hello. I am trying to find the poem Brian read at an event at Nunnington Hall, North Yorkshire some years ago. The event was aimed at children and we were accompanied by our two grandsons, long time fans of Brian - as are we! The poem was about a ghost soldier in a classroom, visible to the children but not the teacher. It was very moving and I was reminded of it during the recent We Are Here event commemorating the Battle of the Somme. Please could you tell me where I can find this wonderful poem? Our grandsons are 16 & 14 now but remember the poetry event very fondly! Many thanks, Jacqui (York)
NB: This poem is now on the Poetry page - HERE.


Hi There. I may be going mad and as most of my poetry books are boxed up in an attic in Cardiff I can't check. I'm looking for a BP poem that includes or is called something like 'If words were more her medium than touch' or 'If touch was more her medium than words'. I've googled the line and can't find it. Anyone know the poem that contains these lines? Would love to hear from anyone that can shed some light on this. Cheers, Gail

Hello Gail, You can find the poem in “Collected Love Poems” (Harper Perennial) - an update of the earlier book that was simply called “Love Poems.”  Hopefully the updated volume might be a little wiser, or, if not wiser, then at least more encompassing. Hope your books won’t remain in Cardiff attic, bubbling away with intensity and longing to rejoin you. You’ve just  made me look at the poem again, I’m remembering the intensity, the rawness felt when writing it.  I remember where I was living, the table (two planks on a trellis) on which it was written, and of course far more than that- and, too vividly for my own sake, for who it was written. bp


Dear Brian, For me your work has been - as that ad had it - 'for the journey'. When I was much younger and hurrying on, your words gave form and voice to hopes and aches that otherwise tended to chaos. Now, they help me to face and engage with the bewilderment of loss - of people, of time - and to gain some comfort, no matter how grim. Poetry as sharing experience to make some sense - realise an empathy - sometimes it happens! I await the next ambush. I hope this reaches you, and isn't too fulsome. All the best - and thanks. Adrian Steele


Hi Brian, Several lifetimes ago, it seems, you recited at my old university in Sydney, Australia. It was a great gig and left me very inspired and excited for the world of words and imagination. I remember spotting Georgie Fame in the audience too! I have a memory of a poem you recited that I think was a eulogy and included the line "and the stars, the buggers" but I haven't been able to find the poem anywhere over the years. I may of course have a false memory of the occasion and also may have misheard the words. Hope you can help as I remember the spirit of the poem really clearly (if not the words). With best wishes, Christina Mimmocchi.

The poem’s called Ode On Celestial Music. I remember writing it way back in 1968 when I was living at 2 North Walls in Winchester. The place was owned by a couple called Spike and Jan and I dedicated the first children’s book I wrote to their daughter, Karen. At the time Brian Eno was also renting a room in the house and scribbling away in his notebooks - (Brian was at the art college there, and some of his tutors were completely baffled by what he was up to.) bp


In May this year my daughter posted a video on facebook of her youngest, Jake, then 5 years old, reciting (and BSL signing) your poem 'A Small Dragon' from heart.
He loves words - perhaps because he is deaf and he has to work hard at them. He learnt your poem for fun - it was not required by school. He truly believes that dragons are real and will not let his older brother contradict this. He thinks a lot. Last December he said, "I think, instead of chasing your dreams, your dreams should come to life." Thanks for bringing one dream to life. Jenny Knowles

Hello Jenny, One of the most memorable - for me - readings I gave was with Adrian Mitchell and Phyllis Frelich, the actress who stared in the stage version of Children of a Lesser God. Phyllis signed the reading in American sign language and it was also signed by several people in BSL- I had not understood before that evening how well sign language could express joy and sorrow. And humour. It’d be lovely to see Jake’s video sometime. I was delighted that he found that small dragon! bp


Today I photographed some yellow-leaved sunflowers with tatty hanging heads. Revisited your love poems. Not read them for a while though I know many by heart. So different reading your books with the experience of a 45 year old. I was a teenager when I first read Love Poems - very earnestly. They're wonderful. Katherine Pierce


Hello Brian, I read in a local paper that you are appearing in Wirral on 14th October. On seeing your photograph I am testing my long term memory. Are you the same Brian who lived in Wavertree Vale in the 1950s. If so I believe our back entry doors backed on to each other. My name is Bob Coote and I lived in Ash Grove and went to Sefton Park School I am 68yrs old. My childhood memory seems to recall that we had a dog that went into your back yard and pinched a tortoise presumably yours!!. If you are not the same Brian I apologise for contacting you. Regards Bob Coote.

Bob, yes that was me. I did drop an email to you quite a while before the reading, but got no reply. I remember the narrowish alleyway between us - full of dustbins, dog-piss and butterflies. I remember the butterflies because they were always hovering around the buddleia that grew out of the cracks in the walls. bp


Hi Brian, I would just like to let you know that I have your poem Geography Lesson on my bedroom wall. You were kind enough to send me a signed copy a few years ago and every time I am not sure whether to do a particularly exciting holiday, I go and reread it. I am 69 years old but, inspired by this, I have recently ridden horses in India, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa and several European countries. A couple of years ago I joined an Earthwatch expedition entitled saving Kenya's black rhinos and before that I went to America with them and fitted radio collars on black bears. I am about to go to Romania to have a bears, wolves and lynx experience. I mention these just to say thank you as your poem inspires me to think do what you can while you can! I leave my husband at home as he is not as adventurous as I am. Thanks so much for the very kind gesture, Jan Cooper

Hello Jan, one of my favourite poems has always been ”Sailing to Ithicka” It sounds to me it’s exactly what you are doing! You’ll find it on YouTube if you Google : Ithaca by C.P.Cavafy (with Sean Connery & Vangelis) It’s a wonderful poem. bp


On nights like these only "The Stolen Orange" will do. Always a gentle solace and comfort. Thank you for writing it, Brian. Carol Lee

Hello Carol, You’ll find a companion poem to The Stolen Orange in my ‘Selected Poems’ from Penguin Books. It’s called Full Circle World. You’ll also find it on my site amongst the poems of the month. Always think poetry can be a medicine of kinds. For me, a dose of C P Cavafy’s Ithica often works. See above. bp


Dear Brian. I'm a Principal Examiner for GCSE English Literature. set the poetry paper for foundation students, the second part of which requires a response to an unseen poem. In the past, I have used 'Words' which was very successful and this summer, I used your lovely poem 'First Love'. This again produced some stunning answers and it's always really heartwarming to see what these 'lower ability' students can do in terms of spontaneously responding to a poem. I thought you might like to see what one 16 year old wrote in their response to 'First Love':"When I read this poem I felt something tingle my heart. I'm unsure what it was but I felt something. Something nice." Thank you so much for your lovely words which allowed someone to write these lovely words. Pam BenMardhia

Thanks Pam. Nice that you’ve put ‘lower ability’ in inverted commas. We both know there’s something very dodgy about such phrases. Lower ability in what?
Some of those lower ability students have been fixing the cars etc of a multitude of Ministers of Education for decades, because when it comes to engines those ministers are probably of even lower ‘lower ability’. I know I’m being far too simplistic here, but you get my drift. And thanks for writing and sharing the student’s response. It was a lovely answer. It’s great that you care so much about these students. Your message sparked a memory of a poem by Bertolt Brecht called - in one translation - A Worker Reads History. Best wishes, Brian


Hi Brian. I did not know how else to contact you so here I am hoping that you will see the really rather special sentiments in my message. My dear friend the singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega told me that she has been a fan of yours for many moons and so much so that during her formative years she submitted one of her poems entitled Gypsy about her love for a Liverpool lad to you which would later feature as a prominent part of her performing repertoire. you know you have an accomplished and famous fan which I hope makes your day Darling. With Liverpool love from a fellow Scouser...Ruthie. X

Hello Ruthie - honoured indeed! I imagine that although Suzanne is a decade younger than myself we shared and probably still share a lot of the same heroes - her song Crack in the Wall echoes Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience for example, and there’s a whole generation of singer/songwriters she shines amongst who’ve paid homage to Lorca and Rimbaud and the supreme Neruda. Love sung poems. I remember in the early sixties I was in Dublin with the playwright John Arden and someone played us a recording of Van Morrison singing the W. B. Yeats poem, Song of Wandering Aengus. Must be rare as hen’s teeth that recording. At the moment my favourite poem/song is Who? by the poet Charles Causley, who I knew and was very fond of. The Cornish folk singer Jim Causley, a distant relative of his, sings it. Check it out and maybe pass it on: Jim Causley sings Charles Causley's Who - YouTube HERE


Hi Brian: I was speaking with Michael Horovitz and he mentioned that you knew my father, Piero Heliczer. I would love to find out more about your relationship as I'm collecting stories about my father. Look forward to hearing from you! --Therese

Hello Therese, Sadly, I didn’t know Piero as well as Michael obviously thinks. I wish I had a million and one memories to offer you because I know from my own experience of trying to make sense of the past that it would be a lovely gift.
I remember the quietness of his voice, and his charm and his smile that always seemed to be hiding secrets, but I guess that description of him is one that you already know. So, no stories, we talked rather than did things. The last time I saw him was in Amsterdam when he was living on the canal boat and was poor as a mouse and had no money for rent and he managed to charm some cash out of me, which I was happy to give, just having done a gig. (Fortunately he did have enough money for wine, so he had his priorities right). I do hope you find your stories. It was a bleak day when he died in that roadside accident. Hope also you can gather his films and poetry together. His poetry deserves a collected edition. I tried writing back privately to you but my emails have bounced back, so hope you find this. Much love, Brian


Hi Brian I have been a fan of yours since the early seventies and have many of your books signed by you at various Readings. I listened to you reading your poems on a Poetry Archive CD where you speak about your Mother and Grandmother and was touched yet again by your emotional reading. Was reminded again of familiar poems Earwings, Sometimes It Happens, A Blade of Grass, Cinders in your Armada Collection. Any readings planned for my area Dorset or my home town Liverpool where I would love to hear you on home ground. Thank you for all the pleasure your poems and you reading them gives me. Mary Walker

Hello Mary, Thanks for the vote of confidence. No readings planned in Liverpool this year- nearest is the Bookfest in Warrington in October. It’d be nice to do something in Dorset before long. I did the Thomas Hardy festival a while ago and was lovely. A great county. If you hear of any festivals looking for an itinerate poet do say you have one in mind. bp


Many years ago, I bought the original 'Love Poems' book and this started a brief flurry of my buying up all the Patten output, introducing my (then) young kids to the joys of poetry though Brian and Spike. The other day, my now grown son asked me what I'd like to have read at my funeral (sounds like he's planning something!) and after some thought, decided upon 'One Another's light'. It remains for me the most beautiful and insightful poem about the way we live our lives. Thank you. John O'Brien
Hello John, Hope that occasion is a long way off. If I had to make a shortlist of the poems of my own that matter most to me, One Another’s Light would be high on the list.  bp


Hi, Our teachers said your name was Brain and we are gravely disappointed to find your name is actually Brian. :) Clair Ellis

Sadly, that’s not a mistake any of my own teachers at Sefton Park Secondary Modern School would have made. They were convinced no one in the ‘c’ stream had any brains. bp


Love Poems. What a wonderful book and I dont even like poetry, but this book transformed my life. Thank you for being inspired to write it, to share it and thank you having that ability to clearly write what we all feel but are too confused to know that. So a big thank you, all the way from Hollywood, California. David Lyons


Hi Brian, having been a great lover of your poetry for many years I thought it was about time I told you. I Read your poem "And Nothing Is Ever As You Want It To Be" last night and in my head I could hear you speaking it. Over the years I've heard many poets read their poetry but I have to say no one matches up to your ability make the poem live and remain. The last time I heard you was in Hay on Wye some years ago, I'd really love to hear you again. Liz Bardell-Rippin

Hello Liz. Remember writing that poem in a London basement one winter many moons ago. In a sense it’s a companion to another poem I wrote that same winter called Sometimes It Happens. They echo each other. bp


Hi Brian, Karl here. I don't know if you'll remember but I volunteered at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, and you recommended me Lowell's Imitations. I read it and it's fantastic! Loved your reading too,the structure of it was phenomenal, but I especially loved The Minister of Exams. Having just got out of school it's great to hear. Thanks, it was a brilliant time. - Karl.

Thanks for kind words Karl. Glad you found the Lowell book. I read with him and Stephen Spender in Italy a million years ago.


Dear Brian, I listened to you on Friday evening in Winchester with trepidation and expectation. I've loved your poetry for over thirty years since a boyfriend introduced me, by sending me the poem Simple Lyric which I still know and love today. And then you recited The Ambush, I sent it to my lovesick brother many years ago as a way of trying to ease his heartache. You did not disappoint, I just wanted you to continue, read more, read my favourites, there are so many I'd have loved to hear. Thank you. Elaine Beaucham

Enjoyed that Winchester Festival reading with Imtiaz Dharker and Matt Harvey. It's always hard knowing when sharing a stage which poems to include in a reading, simply because one has limited time. I was going to read Simple Lyric, but The Ambush won out. Another poem I meant to include was 'I Caught a Train That Passed the Town Where You Lived' as the town was Winchester, and I remember the ache that inspired it as the train bypassed. 


Just read your poem " So many different lengths of time " It was lovely. Brought back memories, images of better times. Thank you. Ron Harbron.

Thanks Ron. The poem was first written for a friend of mine who loved the poems of Pablo Neruda. The first lines of the poem - the questions -  are a translation of lines by Neruda, the rest of the poem is my answer to those questions. The poem was first published in a collection of mine called Armada, along with the Neruda lines quoted. For years now it has been a comfort to many people. At memorial services people have changed the words and personalised the poem. Sometimes it becomes how “long is a man’s life,” other times, “how long is a woman’s life”, and saddest of all, how long is a child’s life.“His lover” becomes “his wife,” or “her husband,” Other lines also morph. As often as not it’s copied from a service sheet and sent on to someone looking for an appropriate poem with no name attached. So it often travels on its own, and belongs to us all, as do its sentiments.


Hi Brian, I was lucky to see you at St Georges Hall, Liverpool with Roger McGough and Adrian Henri's partner. This was a really special night and particularly memorable for me as my wife Anne who hadn't previously been interested in poetry was quite moved by the reading and left the venue with a new perspective and insight into prose/poetry. I just want to thank you for a special night that will live long in our memories. I can't wait for you to come to Liverpool again. Kind regards, Ken & Anne Storey

Hello Ken, That was a special evening for Catherine, Roger and myself. It wasn't so much a poetry reading as a tribal gathering, one we were honoured to help facilitate.


Hi Brian. Really enjoyed the gig at Teignmouth yesterday. Loved the poem about the geography teacher. A lesson for us all! Best wishes Janet

Hello Janet - Sadly, have forgotten the name of the teacher that poem - Geography Lesson - was about. He taught at the Secondary Modern school I attended. You can find it in Poem of the Month list on this site. It’s also in my Selected Poems (Penguin).


Hello Brian. I remember many things from long ago, and sometimes I recall them flakily.
I remember a reading in Edinburgh in the late 70s, and I'm almost sure it was you who read us a beautiful poem about disturbing a spider's web to save something (a butterfly?) and ending up doing more harm than good. Did you ever write such a thing? All the best, Colin Findley

Hello Colin. The poem is called One Reason For Sympathy and you can find it in my Selected Poems (Penguin Books). I was never quite sure whether to change the last line of that poem to something like,  “I hope the same mess is not made of me.” Guess both endings would be valid.


Its a delight to read your poetry on this site. When are you performing your poetry again? Where AND When, it would be good to see you in Bristol. I believe you've been an influence on my own poetry and given my children great pleasure, over the years. Also, I wish to ask whether you ever came to my primary school- Earlfield Junior in Wandsworth that would be 48 or 49 years ago... so you can see how far back your fan base began. There are three generation in my home, all enjoying Brian Patten poetry, isn't it wonderful!! Regards and thank you Cathy Keal


Hello Brian. I have thought about contacting you for a while, but I haven't got around to it until now. I know this forum is monitored by your administrator, but I hope you see it. (I would have contacted you more directly, but I couldn't find out how). When I was six, you came to Bristol Old Vic for a childrens' poetry recital, and I was in the audience with my dad. I was already a fan of your poetry, and I kept shouting out 'I know that one!' at various poems. I knew quite a lot of them off by heart, and I seem to recall we might have said one together, but I'm not sure about that. Afterwards you recognised me at book-signings - you said 'You were the lad who knew them all, weren't you?' and signed my copy of Juggling With Gerbils! Anyway, my parents have been on at me for years to get in touch with you to find out if you remember, and now I really am! If you don't remember it's cool - it was a long time ago - but then again, I imagine there aren't that many six-year-olds who know lots of your poems by heart. (I'm 20 now - doesn't time fly?) George Millman

Hello George- yes, remember the Bristol Old Vic event, and your unbridled enthusiasm. Nice to know you’re still reading poetry. The poem you helped me out with was called Someone Stole The... You can find it on this site in the Poem of the Month section. 


I want you to know that, ever since I can remember, I have had your poem "Travelling Between Places" in my head. It has been such a familiar companion that (please don't be offended), I thought I must have written it myself. Then it occurred to me to "Google" it, and lo! it was you!! You are the person who put those utterly resonant words together. I must've come upon them when I was a teenager. They have stayed with me. I love them. They have colored my world. Thank you so much. Mimi Emerson


Is there any chance that Brian may come over to the States for a reading tour? It has been too long since I've had the chance to see him live, and sadly I won't be back this year. Fingers crossed from sunny Los Angeles! Catherine Sutton

Thanks for the suggestion, Catherine.  Trouble is, it's an awfully long way from the garden!


Hello Brian. Saw you in that pub near Kensington Church Walk (and Turret Books)in about 1974, both of us talking to others - I mentioned O'Connor's Tavern, which drew your attention and we had a great chat! Just returned from Liverpool, first visit for aeons: didn't recognize much but still very moving. Even if O'Connors has gone... All the best to you and thanks for all the celestial music (and the girl in the bathroom singing). Chris Flint


I wish I had known your poem "So many different lengths of time" before my Brother Keith's funeral. It perfectly matches my feelings about my loss. Thank you. Vivien Thornton


Could you please explain the meaning of Angel Wings? I love the poem so much but I can't seem to fully understand what it's trying to say. Rosie Matthews

Hello Rosie. It doesn't matter if you don't fully understand the poem. It's what you get out of it that matters. I think when we come back to poems at different stages of our lives we find different shades of meaning in them. For me it is about how we can destroy things unintentionally, about not trusting one's emotions, about belief, or depending on your view, the lack of it. Maybe it's also about acceptance, and how one can analyse something out of existence... which is what I'm in danger of doing here. Glad you like the poem.


Cormorants: Brian, I think the river will remember your friend Bob Bull, even if it's only in the absence of a disturbance in the light where he stood, or the springing back up of the crushed grasses on the bank where his footfalls made puddles of the dew. I hope you finish the poem. Jenny Doe


Hello Brian, Last year I e-mailed you about our Poetry Festival and you very replied - offering encouragement. We're holding it again this year. I won't forget your kind comments. Best wishes from all the children at Roscoe Primary School, Liverpool, L13. J Audre


Hello Brian. I first read your poetry in The Mersey Sound and then in what must have been the first The Irrelevant Song. That was in early 70s. Somewhere I picked up the '75 edition recently, the earlier one having wandered off. Inside it says: Susan(?) Xmas 1980 Love Danny x(?). When I read the works to myself you had the same old effect, which is a good thing. Cheers John - Brisbane

Dear Brian, I have been a huge fan of your work since I first heard you read at Manchester's Royal Exchange in the early eighties. One Another's Light is a particular favourite of mine and never have I been more thrilled than when you read it out for me at a reading at Battersea Arts Centre (mid nineties?). BUT - I have a question... I recently had to buy a new copy of Love Poems as mine had pretty much fallen to bits. Turning to One Another's Light I discovered that you had changed the last line from 'Think the way we go...' to 'Hope the way we go...' and I just wondered why the change? More wistful and optimistic in older age than the determination of youth? I'd love to know... Jane Bransby

Hello Jane, Changing the last line wasn’t really a conscious decision. A few poems have changed odd lines over the years- mainly through reading them out loud to an audience and finding that, almost unconsciously, new words replace the old, and once there demand to stay. The Collected Love Poems was a chance to add much later poems like That Dress, This Shirt to the original collection.


I have loved your poetry since I bought 'Love Poems' and fell in love myself with 'A blade of grass' and 'And nothing is ever as perfect as you want it to be'. I am currently teaching poetry to year 11, or the fifth year as I prefer, and have been using your work and John Cooper Clarke's as a way lightening the load. They love your work, but I did like a rather critical comment I heard today after reading 'I have changed the numbers on my watch.' I think the words "Is that it?" should be cherished by any poet. Duncan Cutler

Two days ago, while flicking through an anthology of poems, I stumbled upon a poem of yours. I loved it and read it to my year 4/5 class; and they loved it too. I felt it was one of the most beautiful poems I had ever read. I read it several times to them and almost cried along its soulful saunter from birth to death. "The bees last journey to the Rose". Here in Australia I was unaware of you and your work. And here I find you on the internet; a very successful poet. May I say that I was not surprised to find you have had great success. Mat James.


Brian. I was just researching my old school, Sefton Park, Secondary Modern and I never realised that you too were a former pupil, although you are a couple of years ahead of me?
Just to let you know, Eric (Stephen) Sutcliffe was an inspiration to me as well. Sadly I attended his funeral around 8 years ago. When it came to the time for personal reflection on his life, I recited in my head a poem he taught us in preparation for the GCSE exams and that was 'The Captain of the Gate' and said in silence, thank you sir. I found your works in later life and enjoy the content. With best wishes. John Spencer.


I last enjoyed a live performance of your work some 10/15 years ago in Canterbury- are there any scheduled performances in London or Kent in the next few months/ my now adult sons went through school quoting "Minister for Exams". John Powell

Hello John. Thank you for contacting Brian Patten's guestbook. Brian will be reading at the Purcell Room, in London’s South Bank Center on 4th December. The event will be a celebration of Christopher Logue.


Ah Brian, I just found my copy of The Irrelevant Song, you'd scribbled two poems in the front from Storm Damage which you were writing at the time. You know I love your poetry, especially Angel Wings, and Pop Poem, which I can and still do regularly recite on social occasions and when in the company of my friend Jo! Happy memories. When I speak your words I hear your voice and I feel your love of the poem performed. Much love, Poppy Altmann

Los libros viajan ... I met a friend from Malaysia in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He gave me a special gift... one of the most treasured books for me, LOVE POEMS... gracias Brian! Marcela

Hi Brian. when I am going to be able to hear you read your wonderful poems I live in the midlands but am often in Liverpool so do you have plans to go on stage? I know I am not alone your reading would please a lot of people. John Wilson

Hi Brian, I have read and reread your 'Love Poems' and took the advice in Love Lesson. But now think there should be another verse. All I have is a rail ticket to Birmingham nestled between pages twenty four and twenty five. With Thanks Mal

My Husband included your poem So Many Different Lengths of Time, in his eulogy at our dear friends funeral last month (Terry Gorman, another Brother of Liverpool), held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Toxteth. Your body of work has helped, represented and entertained us over the years. I too, would like to thank you for your beautiful gift of words. Vanessa Creech

I'm now based in Los Angeles, and wondered if there are any plans for a US reading tour at any point in the near future (she says, fingers crossed whilst typing). An ardent fan since I was introduced to Brian's work in the early '80's....but it has been a long time since there's been the opportunity to see him in person. Catherine Sutton

hello there, i am trying to find a poem that i heard brian read at adrian mitchell's celebration event at the southbank centre which was about the narrator sitting on a bench and a dead ghost figure comes to talk to him...whats it called??!? it was very beautiful. thanks, Cai Draper

Hello Cai. Thank you for contacting Brian Patten's guestbook. The poem is called 'In the Orchard After Midnight' and we will add it to the site in a few days time. Webweaver

I heard you read So Many Different Lengths of Time at Edinburgh Festival in 1996 and it has been with me ever since then. I read it at a friends funeral in 1997 and gave my signed copy of Armada to his parents. Since then I have told many people about it and it has always been very well received. This year my Dad (a Liverpudlian) died and it was read at his humanist funeral. I was at home in New Zealand at the time but read it in my earthquake damaged copy of Armada. This wasn't the first time had had brought tears to my eyes but it was the most important. Thank you for writing this wonderful poem. Colin Woodhouse, Christchurch, New Zealand. Colin Woodhouse

Hey Brian, it was such an honour to perform on the same stage as you at the Southbank last night - and such a wonder and ease to chat backstage. I still am turning over the things you said, light and deep, funny and serious, about the process of writing poems. I hope I get the chance to meet you again soon. Sending love, Francesca Beard

Love your new website but when are you coming up north to read again? Please please please. . . I'm in Sheffield but can get to Liverpool (my home town) too if you've got any readings planned? You have been my favourite poet since I first heard you read in a small classroom in the Arts Tower at Sheffield University about 1971/72. Thank you for everything you've given me through all those wonderful poems and for all the times I've heard you read them. Gill Hughes.

A fantastic night in Wells-next-the-Sea last Saturday. Great to meet you! Thank you for your friendliness and for all your wonderful words, which have been the background theme (and sometimes the leading symphony) to my life over the last 34 years or so. Do hope that we shall be able to tempt you to Rutland for the inaugural Rutland Poetry Festival sometime next year! Carol and Jules

Hi Brian, Just to say a big thank you for taking the time to speak to my twin Jan at your Wells poetry reading. She was absolutely thrilled and made to feel very special. Thank you so much for your kindness. Liz Dinsdale.

Brian your collected poems book and especially simple lyric really helped me to understand how it felt in words to express loss of someone i love so deeply. your phrase 'i am ill simply through wanting her' just brought out exactly how i felt. Collected poems is absolutely amazing and i pick it up all the time for inspiration and it eases my soul. Dee

Hello Brian. Really enjoyed the reading on Saturday night in Wells. I agree with most of the crowd, we could have listened to you for much longer. Hope to hear you again soon. Sue Quinney & Jan Dinsdale.

Hi. Sitting on my bookshelf, unmolested for a long time is a copy of Grave Gossip. I bought it after seeing Brian live in the 1980s. I still remember some of the things between the poems though not whether McGough and Henri were both there too. Today I learnt a friend of mine had died."Advice from the Original Gatecrasher to the recently Dead" kept going through my head. I couldn't place it at first, but like poems do it had stayed in my head, biding its time. I've shared it with others of his friends... Ed Stone.

Hi Brian, I have just found your guest book for the first time, and have discovered that Sue has put up a note about her partner Jan. Jan is my identical twin sister. I know she has been an ardent fan of yours all her life and has been to hear you numerous times. I agree with Sue, if you could possibly find the time to meet her, it would mean an enormous amount to her. I'm only sorry I can’t make the 12th myself. Do you ever give readings down in the West Country? Elizabeth Dinsdale

Hello Elizabeth. You have just missed one of Brian's readings in Lyme Regis, Dorset a few weeks ago! Stay tuned as we'll be adding more dates in the next week or so. Webweaver

Hi Brian, Have just discovered your wonderful website. Fishing and Finance, what a poem! Angel Wings has been a favorite of mine for many years. I shall come back here again.
All the best Maggie Walker.

Hello there Brian. I have just become aware that you are in Wells Next the Sea in May. My partner Jan is currently in hospital with severe depression. Your poetry has always been a great support throughout, infact, she has introduced one of the nurses to your poems. I have secured two tickets and B&B as a surprise for her, I know its a long shot but do you ever meet people from your audience? It would certainly make her year, as this is her 60th. Regards, Sue.

Hi Brian, I still remember fondly your Elephant and The Flower books; You gave me a signed copy via my father who I believe you knew back then. (Kevin and Susie Gilmore Mulholland) My children loved it and so do all the kids I read it to. Thanks. Cheryl Mulholland

Hi Brian, It is Marcela, from Buenos Aires Argentina.
Maybe your farthest fan . "A blade of grass" is one of my favorite poems. I admire your style, simple and deep. you have the enough sensitivity to put into words those things and feelings we once used to see with virgin eyes. Gracias, Marcela. I apologize for my basic English.

Dear Brian,
Today has blossomed into joy and inspiration after listening to your reading of The Blue and Green Ark. Much love and a blue whale thank you. Sarah Darling

What a lovely new website! Still looking for another poemsong to sing.. love Judy Dyble x

Dear Brian
What an absolutely lovely site and a brilliant resource for children, parents, teachers and poetry lovers. Listening to your reading of 'The Blue and Green Ark' with the music and beautiful imagery is a real treat. Jane Johnson x

Dear Brian,
I am writing my PhD research on your poems and the late Henri, God bless his soul and Roger McGough. But you know, I could not refrain my tears from shedding when I read: Little Johnny's final communication and even I put it into my facebook. I wanted to say a big hi to you. Loads of greetings. Asst Prof. Shatha Alsaadi University of Baghdad, Iraq

Dear Brian
Recently a dear friend of ours, Graham, died - I read So Many Different Lengths of Time at his farewell last Saturday, from the copy of The Armada that you signed for me in Guildford a fair few years ago....people were deeply moved by the poem (I am sure you've heard this before) and I just wanted to thank you for the gift. So thanks and greetings from Pembrokeshire, where its really brrrr!! Best wishes. Marc Mordey

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