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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'.
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If you want to use that term about yourself that is one thing. But when anyone uses the phrase "mentally ill" about others, including me and other psychiatric survivors, the implication is that since an "illness" is the problem then a doctor ought to be part of the solution. "Mental illness" also says since the problem is like a materialistic physical illness, then perhaps the solution ought to be physical too, such as a chemical or drug or electricity.