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Can I Come Too Brian Patten


Frog said no, but he thinks Little Mouse is brave for trying to find the biggest creature in the world. He wants to come along. Together, Little Mouse and Frog continue searching for the biggest creature in the world. They come upon several creatures, including a bird, a cat, an otter, a badger, a dog, a goat, a tiger, and a polar bear. Little Mouse asks each the same question she had asked Frog, but none of these magnificent creatures is the biggest in the world.




Can I Come Too Brian Patten



I love that none of these animals had to be afraid of another. The journey is more important to them than following a natural inclination to make a snack out of a smaller animal. One of the funniest parts, to me, is when the group comes upon the dog. Little Mouse asks the dog,


Two years later, in Notes to the Hurrying Man: Poems, Winter '66-Summer '68 (1969), there's less exuberance. Love can be 'the bruised shape we pick / from now freezing orchards' ('Diary Poem'), and 'it is evident by the rain gathering in your eyes / how easily our loving has translated into pain' ('The Translation'). Romantic love in all its aspects has indeed provided Patten with a rich vein of material over the years, and many lovers walk through his pages. His ever-popular volume of Love Poems progresses from infatuation to seduction, rapture to regrets. By Storm Damage (1988), Patten has become more satirical, admitting that 'the face you swore never to forget / Can no longer be remembered'. 'The Cynic's Only Love Poem' reads, in its entirety: 'Love comes and goes / And often it has paused, / Then comes back to see / The damage it has caused'. He writes in Storm Damage with some venom also about politics, religion, high finance ('Blood Broker') and the betrayal of the 1960s' ideals. But by then Patten's work had long begun its evolution towards children, arguably beginning in the early 1970s with two short prose works: Jumping Mouse (1972), an illustrated fable (based on a Native American folktale) about a mouse who learns lessons about life from the animals he meets on his travels, and a fantasy novella, Mr. Moon's Last Case (1975). The latter depicts, in simple but effective prose, a dwarf's odyssey in Wales, and manages to be oddly poignant. Nameon's encounters with the baffled locals and modern technology are interspersed with episodes with a sympathetic tramp, a lorry driver, and some nasty, greedy children. He is also being doggedly pursued, by a retired detective 'who still believes in fairyland'.


The fully illustrated Gargling with Jelly is still his best and most popular children's poetry book, with a fast-moving cast of nose-picking children, cartoon heroes ('Billy Dreamer's Fantastic Friends'), 'Groan-Ups', fantastical creatures, 'Five Nasty Goblins', and a jealous mermaid. School and family life is its mainstay, using generally short, simple rhyming forms. The fun of 'Mum won't Let Me Keep a Rabbit' contrasts with 'Burying the Dog in the Garden' ('We were all / seven. / We decided we / did not want to / go to Heaven'). Very funny and surreal, too, at times: as in a poem about a child who becomes invisible, 'Cousin Lesley's See-through Stomach': 'In the morning we often noted / How the toast and porridge floated, / And how unappetizing in the light / Was the curry from last night'. 'The Bee's Last Journey to the Rose' hits a lovely elegiac note: 'I'm old in this green ocean. / Going a final time to the rose'. Thawing Frozen Frogs (1990) is much in the same vein, full of fantasies ('The teachercreature' and 'The Family Exchange') and exuberant scenes at home ('The Race to Get to Sleep'). There are more serious poems, as with a child's problems with speech and language ('Aphasia'), and a number have ecology as their moral ('Acid Snow Drops' and 'The River's Story').


In Party Notes he describes the various dreamers and idlers of modern society who lead a meaningless existence because they refuse to emerge from the illusion of pleasures and see the reality of things. Patten gives a snippet of his philosophy in Why Things Remained the Same when he says that though 'The need to change is ever present nothing really changes' In Minister for Exams Patten satirises the rigidity and misguided approach of an educational system which demands stereotyped answers, even to questions intended to stimulate the child's subjective imagination. Also on the theme of the education, in Dead Thick, he attacks the attitude of the English teacher who thinks he is 'too busy for literature', because he is more interested in getting promotion than doing his duty. In another poem, Drunk, Patten reflects that everyone should get drunk on exciting and fruitful activities which lead to dizzy raptures. The term 'drunk' refers to frenzied involvement in any activity, as distinct from the usual sober, solemn, careful approach to predictable routines. Similarly, in The Purpose is Ecstasy, he opines that we will be slaves to habit and monotony until the day we die if we don't put our dreams into action. The purpose of such an endeavour is to achieve ecstasy, and that makes all the difference between success and failure in life. The universal appeal of Patten's poems is due to his deep understanding of the world and the problems peculiar to the modern era. His verse is a reaffirmation of faith in life. His robust optimism is evident in all his works, though in In Perspective he acknowledges that 'Happiness like sorrow, needs to be fed'. He says that since happiness is but an occasional interlude in the general drama of pain, one should be ready to seize it in whatever form it presents itself. For Patten even the 'luxury' of a momentary meeting with a friendly stray dog can induce happiness and rejuvenate his spirits. The characters who populate Patten's poems are varied and individualised, just as real people are individual and unique. To cite just a few examples of the characters who become etched in the reader's memory forever; the morally shattered teenage girl who was raped at a suburban party; the juvenile delinquent Little Johnny who eliminated a number of his small enemies as a protest against the ill-treatment and cruelty meted out to him by his drunkard father; the psychologically fractured children afflicted with 'Aphasia' (deaf and dumb) who feel alienated from society; frustrated Jimmy who 'blows his brains out' unable to endure any longer the suffering and misery brought about by poverty and an inadequate social and political system; the girl who indulged in self-destruction, aided and abetted by the use of cocaine, because she was weighed down by 'Too many problems at dawn' (Pop Poem); the old man who insists on hearing only 'bona-fide celestial music' (Ode on Celestial Music); the romantic lover who becomes a 'burning genius', a composer, as a result of his unrequited love for a violinist (Burning Genius). Thus like the many colours of a kaleidoscope, his characters are multifaceted and multi-dimensional, real enough to be characters in novels. Patten's poems express the 'Theorem of the livableness of life' (Stevenson) and provide answers to the problem of 'how to live' in our complex, problem-ridden modern era. But there is also, here and there, an echo of the sentiment that in spite of our best efforts there must also be a note of resignation in our endeavours, as if in the final analysis our actions could at best be termed a 'faithful failure'.


Patten's works are notable for their romanticism, with subtle references to the deception and frustration caused by estrangement from love. His volumes Vanishing Trick (1976) and Love Poems (1981) celebrate the trials and tribulations of love; from dizzy sensual raptures to aesthetic love bordering on spirituality. In One Another's Light he ruminates on the influence that we have on one another, and on the power of love, the great force that binds one person to another. Lit briefly by one another's light, the light of love, of life, we simultaneously pursue a path of our own making and 'Think that way we go is right'. In In the Dying of Anything Patten compares the attitude of lovers to each other in later years to their attitudes in their youth. As lovers grow older love-making becomes based on a mere touch or feeling and 'There is nothing simpler or more human than this', whereas in youth love 'bursts even against the rainbow' (suggestive of its physical intensity) 'softly soaking us'. The aged lovers lie in quiet repose catching 'what life and light we can'. Patten says that when there is a rift between lovers they cannot even have peaceful sleep. The lover in the poem You Have Gone to Sleep feels acutely the difference between the sleep he had with his beloved in the past and his sleep in the present. 'Once sleep was simply sleep', but now sleep is preceded by doubts and distrust leading to 'awkward questions'. Hence sleep is now agonising and he only hopes that this night is the last on which there will be any kind of 'pretence', and that the morning will clear things up one way or the other. The poem And Nothing is Ever as Perfect as You Want it to Be expresses Patten's sense of loss and loneliness caused by estrangement from love. He ruefully wishes that if only love could be brought home like a lost kitten, or, like strawberries, be gathered in a basket, life would have been happier and much easier. But, regrettably, love cannot be revived or retrieved once it comes to its natural death, since once broken down it can never be mended. The poet consoles himself with the thought that nothing in this world is ever as perfect as one wants it to be. Everyone has to endure his share of sufferings and bear the pain. That is the law of nature, of life itself. Patten's poem A Blade of Grass expresses the idea that when we are young we tend to believe in the concepts of love, truth, and beauty. Even a blade of grass will be accepted in lieu of a poem when a lover offers it to his young beloved. But as we grow older we become cynical and even a 'blade of grass /becomes more difficult to accept', for the calculating mind will dismiss a blade of grass as merely 'grass', nothing more and nothing less. 041b061a72


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