I have loved Brian Patten since I was a teenager when my hip seventh form English teacher taught us about the Liverpool Poets (Patten, Roger McGough and Adrian Henri).

Patten was my favourite of the three…and I still have an soft spot for his work, all these years later. I know the Liverpool poets are often derided for how ‘accessible’ they are…(is there ever a more ‘damn me with faint praise’ word for a poet than to be called ‘accessible’? Code word for simplistic, easy, populist…) Nonetheless, I enjoy Patten’s take on the world, the way he examines relationships and pokes gentle fun at neuroses.

When I lived in England I saw a poster advertising that Roger McGough and Brian Patten would be reading at my local South Bank Centre so swiftly approached the ticket office, thinking to myself that although I couldn’t really afford it…I HAD to see Patten read….I had to! At the ticket office, I was pleasantly shocked to be told my ticket cost three pounds fifity, about NZ $7. Heh.

Patten was brilliant live, generous and soulful and lugubrious and dour and funny. He finished with a poem about sitting at his mother’s death bed and I cried my sentimental wee eyes out. Here is a recentish poem from him – you can find more on his poetry blog here.

That Dress, This Shirt
by Brian Patten

That dress will not stop you growing older,
No matter how you wear it-
Nor will this baggy shirt I wear disguise anymore
A stomach growing fatter by the hour.
Now that we no longer have time’s currency to squander
Lets get used to the raw material we are,
Lets celebrate this far harder adventure
And stop carrying about the dead weight of Ago.
That dress, this shirt-
We place them over chairs in rooms
Besides beds that sets sail each night without expectation,
With us the crew, held together by time and by the faith
That we are buoyant enough to see any darkness through.

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