Patten was born in Bootle, near the Liverpool docks. He attended Sefton Park School in the Smithdown Road area of Liverpool, where his early poetic writing was encouraged. He left school at fifteen and began work for The Bootle Times writing a column on popular music.
Together with the other two Liverpool poets, Roger McGough and Adrian Henri, Patten published The Mersey Sound in 1967. One of the best-selling poetry anthologies of modern times, The Mersey Sound aimed to make poetry accessible to a broader audience. It has been described as the most significant anthology of the twentieth century. Together with Henri and McGough, Patten was awarded the Freedom of the City of Liverpool in 2001.
Patten's first published volumes of poems were Little Johnny's Confession (1967) and Notes to the Hurrying Man (1969). The later collections Storm Damage (1988) and Armada (1996) are more varied, 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. He has also written comic verse for children, notably Gargling With Jelly and Thawing Frozen Frogs.
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. Charles Causley commented that he "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."
Publications with others
- The Mersey Sound (1967)
Poetry collections for adults
- Little Johnny's Confession
- Notes to the Hurrying Man
- The Irrelevant Song
- Vanishing Trick
- Grave Gossip
- Love Poems
- Storm Damage
- Grinning Jack
- Selected Poems Penguin Books
- The new Collected Love Poems
- The projectionist's nightmare
- Geography lesson
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
- Impossible Parents, illustrated by Arthur Robins (Walker Books, 1994), OCLC 31708253
- The Impossible Parents Go Green, illus. Robins (Walker, 2000)
- The Most Impossible Parents, illus. Robins (Walker, 2010)
- The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry
- The Puffin Book of Modern Children's Verse
- Echo, Liverpool (29 September 2010). "Mersey Poet Brian Patten on his memories of Liverpool". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
- Manning, Craig. "Hot off the bookshelf ... Brian Patten on his book of Upside Down Thinking". Wirral Globe. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
- "Brian Patten - Literature". literature.britishcouncil.org. The British Council. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
- "Recipients of the Honorary Freedom of the City of Liverpool - Liverpool Town Hall". Liverpool Town Hall. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
- Causley, Charles (1978). Twentieth-century Children's Writers (1st ed.). Macmillan International Higher Education. pp. 979–980. ISBN 9781349036486. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
- Official website
- Brian Patten at British Council: Literature
- An interview from Liverpool's Nerve magazine
- Interview with Roger McGough about 40 years of the Mersey Poets
- Articles by Brian Patten on the 5th Estate blog
- Portraits of Brian Patten at National Portrait Gallery
- Brian Patten at Library of Congress Authorities, with 38 catalogue records