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Customer Review

on 22 September 2000
Brian Patten's poems express the "theorem of the livableness of life" and provide answers to the problem of "How to live?" in the problem ridden, modern society. The universal appeal of Patten's poems is due to his deep understanding of the world and the problems peculiar to the modern era.
Many of the poems in "Armada" deal with the theme of death.The title poem "Armada" recounts the poet's nostalgic reminiscences of his own childhood days that he had spent with his mother. Just as a child 's paper boat was blown out of reach by a gust of wind, so too was his mother "Blown out of reach by the smallest whisper of death",In "Cinders" the poet laments that life was never a fairy tale for his deceased mother.She had to toil and moil for her living and in all these "years of sweeping kitchen/ no fairy god-mother appeared"to bring solace to her. Atleast in death she was freed from the miseries of her life.In "Ward Sixteen" the poet vividly and poignantly describes the agony of the dying moments of his mother , finally relieved by a strange glowing light and the ceasing of excruiciating pain of death through its benign influence. The poet presents the grim reality of death in its true form in "Five Down".The icy cold hands of death freeze all five senses, that the dead departs from this world with all his five senses down-sans touch, smell, hearing, seeing, and taste-"sans everything".In the poem "The Brackets" the poet laments over the premature death of poet Wilfred Owen.He warns his poet friends Henri, McGough, and Mitchell to watch out, for the brackets might "close in " any day from now as they grow older with the passing of years .Patten in "So Many Different Lengths of Time" reflects that death need not necessarily be an end in itself and that one might live in the memories of his loved ones long after his demise.Hence a man lives so many different lenghts of time according to the extent of time he lives on others' thoughts. Hence even in death there is a continuation of life-that is the paradox of human life. The poem "In the Dark" suggests that the fear of death is so overpowering that one expects death any moment, blissfully ignorant of the fact that death might pass by and ignore him for the present after all.In"Betrayal" the poet regrets that "not to have marked" the passing of those who shaped him to be a betrayal on his part.Led by day dreams , he alienated himself from his family oblivious to their pain and suffering.
The poet gives a snippet of life's philosophy in "Why Things Remained the Same" when he says that though the "need to change" is ever present nothing really changes.
In the poem "Khartoum' the poet describes the wind as an invisible donkey that carries its burden (dust) , continues with its work century after century and sweeps away the destructions wrought by man and the ravages of time irrespective of time or place or person and thus forges the link between the past and the present.
In "The Mirror's apprenitce" the poet assumes the role of a mirror's apprentice as he wants to see the world as 'a mirror sees it" .He realizes that the mirrors are as "vulnerable as all they reflect" as the mirrors are also fallible to the "slow Mortality" caused by the passage of time". In "The Khardoma" the poet ruefully suggests that people tend to abandon or forget their principles and beliefs as they grow older and reach the "end of transformation" as they "would become experts in forgetting their goals and beliefs being swept by the tide of time.
Patten's "Drinking to the Muse' describes the seven stages in drinking.When a man drinks to his limits, he derives pleasure out of the experience. But when he exceeds his limit and loses control over it, "the muse " ( goddess of wine) abandons him as he slips into oblivion.
The poet describes his obsessive love for a woman in "An Obsession" which became an overwhelming passion, an addiction which could be "cured only by withdrawal"-"So many partings in the mind, the heart/has not the courage to follow through".The poem "Ebb Tide and the Sparrow" presents the ebb and flow of the emotions of a lonely lover who longs to unite with his beloved.
The poet satarizes the rigidity and the faulty approach of the educational system that tends to assess a student's intelligence on the basis of bookish knowledge.He condemns the attitude of the 'minister for exams' who expects stereotyped answers even to the questions involving the child's imagination or fancy.
Patten's verse is a reaffirmation of faith in life, as his robust optimism is evident in all his works. He acknowledges that "Happiness like sorrow, needs to be fed"(In Perspective").The poet says in this poem that since happiness is but an occasional interlude in the general drama of pain, one should be ready to seize in whatever form it presents itself-even the "luxury " of a brief moment of a meeting with a friendly stray dog can induce happiness in the poet and rejuvinate his spirits.
Thus Patten's "Armada" presents a variety of themes which are as varied as the many colours of a Kaleidoscope.
Patten wrote what people understood about themselvs and wanted to have explained. In this sense he really was their spokesman. The most imprtant thing about Patten's work is that it has not been outdated in the least nor will it be in the years to come, as it feels the pulse of the present, which includes not only, "the pastness of the past but also its presence".
In "So Many Different Lengths of Time" the poet says that "A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us/ for as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams/for as long as we ourselves live/ holding the memories in common, a man lives"- so is the case with the poet and his works that would withstand the test of time .His works would live"so many different lengths of time" not only in this generation , but for generations to come.
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