A Gallery to Play To: The Story of the Mersey Poets

By Phil Bowen | Go to book overview

10
The Nineties

'…reporting back…'

Brian Patten began the new decade with a worthy follow-up to Gargling With Jelly, the equally praised and more subversive Thawing Frozen Frogs. Also published by Puffin, the same length as its predecessor, and again illustrated by David Mostyn, it contains such reflective gems as 'The River', 'Hideaway Sam', 'Spider Apples' and 'You Can't Be That'. There is the mischievously plausible 'Dear Mum' and one of the best and funniest poems in the language for children (read fast), the show-stopping 'The Race to Get to Sleep' ('It's Matthew! It's Penny! It's Penny! It's Matthew!'). Using his comic powers to their fullest effect (something he rarely achieves with adults), the poem's horse race commentary builds, pauses, finally accelerates again taking audiences of all ages along on the bumpy ride.

A child at heart, certainly on their side, Patten echoes Charles Causley's view that 'children are excellent judges of poetry, even if they can't always express it in language. Patten affirms this by saying 'you owe it to them to do it very well'. Instinctively knowing what appeals to children; what bores them and what most definitely patronizes them, Patten told The Independent that 'writing for children requires a totally different form, and is technically much more demanding'. To keep his adult work in the public domain, Unwin & Allen published Grinning Jack: Selected Poems, with the usual portrait of Patten on the cover. Sales, again, were exceptional.

Roger McGough's fourth decade in the public eye saw Hilary give birth to Isabel, his fourth child and first daughter. His children's book, An Imaginary Menagerie — an alphabet of outrageous, mostly fictitious, creatures including the Alivator, the Goodgers (and the Badgers), the hairy canary, and one very naughty vignette in which

to amuse
emus
on warm summer nights

-151-

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A Gallery to Play To: The Story of the Mersey Poets
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Author's Note ix
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Fifties and the Beginning of the Liverpool Scene 5
  • 2: Roger Mcgough 1937–1958 15
  • 3: Adrian Henri 1932–1956 22
  • 4: Liverpool 1957–1961 31
  • 5: Brian Patten 1946–1961 38
  • 6: 1961–1968 43
  • 7: The End of the Sixties 81
  • 8: The Seventies 96
  • 9: The Eighties 129
  • 10: The Nineties 151
  • 11: The Noughties 177
  • Bibliography 195
  • Index 196
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