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GO: THEATRE: POET WITH A GOOD LINE IN FUN.

Byline: By Marion McMullen

THE poet who taught children all about gargling with jelly and juggling with gerbils admits he is just a child at heart.

"I don't think I've ever grown up much really," laughs Brian Patten. "I write the type of poetry I wanted to read when I was a kid but couldn't. The poetry around then was very worthy and serious and certainly not fun."

Brian certainly puts the fun factor into his work. His children's cult classics include Gargling With Jelly, Thawing Frozen Frogs and Juggling With Gerbils. Just out is The Story Giant which is packed with ghost stories, fables and morality tales from all over the globe.

He's currently touring the country and appears at Coventry's Warwick Arts Centre later this month.

"It's a family show very much for kids, but adults can come along and enter a second childhood for a while," he says reassuringly. "I've not been to Coventry for a while. I used to be a regular at the arts centre and I'm looking forward to going back.

"I have everyone from tots to grannies coming to the shows. Sometimes adults come by themselves, but it's best to borrow a few kids."

Brian made his name in the '60s as one of the Liverpool Poets and has been writing and performing poetry ever since. His collections for adults include Love Poems, Storm Damage, Grinning Jack and, his latest, Armada.

Brian says: "I've no idea how writing poems for kids started, but I like writing for kids because it's quite anarchic and I can mix poetry and comedy. The kids can also join in a few of the poems."

It's led to Brian getting a lot of letters from young fans and he laughs: "I used to have a cat called Whizz and I had a poem which said I only wrote to keep him in fish. He's gone now - Whizz is Was - but I still get letters for him."

Home for Brian these days is in Dorset and he travels the country by train on his tours because he's never learned to drive.

"I go to the shops by boat and it's great," he smiles. "I think I would have been a merchant seaman if I hadn't started writing poetry because that's what a lot of my family did. I liked the idea of travel. As a child I would sit by the River Mersey and watch the boats go by and dream of the fantastic countries they would visit. I used to wonder what would happen if the landing stage broke off and I went after them."

Brian adds: "I'm happy scribbling and daydreaming ... and travelling on my boat to the shops."

Brian Patten can be seen at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, on November 14. Box office 024 7652 4524.

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YOUNG AT HEART: Brian Patten says he writes the type of poetry he wanted to read as a child, but couldn't because then it was 'very worthy and serious'
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 5, 2004
Words:501
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