ENNERDALE-BORN poet Tom Rawling’s childhood growing up in the valley is remembered in a new book How Hall Poems and Memories: A Passion for Ennerdale.

The publication from the Lamplugh and District Heritage Society is a collection of out-of-print poetry, which also includes Rawling’s personal recollections from living in the region, many of which formed the basis for much of his work.

Born in 1916, Rawling’s upbringing was very much centred around family life. Living at the family home at How Hall meant that he was constantly surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, many of which worked on the farms. With this, he was exposed to the workings of life in the country from a very young age and life on a farm became like second nature to him.

In the book, Rawling speaks in great detail of his childhood in Ennerdale. He recalls with accuracy events which stood out to him, and as a child obviously made an impression on him which lasted all throughout his life. He talks about his father, his life on and around the farm and his relationships with various members of his family.

He did eventually leave the region, moving to London, to study for a degree in history at University College. He then remained in the south most of his adult life, only occasionally returning to the area on visits and trips. However his admiration, influence and recollection of the area in his work, makes him very much a New Lakes poet.

Although not widely recognised as one of the great poets of the region, Rawling’s work spoke of great fondness for the area and Ennerdale in particular. His memories are undoubtedly the basis for much of his work, to which he took a unique approach to writing about and reflecting on. In his poetry, he speaks truthfully and honestly, with understanding of what life can be like the countryside.

Tom Rawling was also involved heavily in fishing. In one particular poem, he talks about the relationship between a fisherman and his catch. However, instead of creating a boundary between the two, Rawling unites them as equals, in nature’s order. This is not surprising, as it recalls what Rawling grew up with - the daily life and death normalities of farm life, and in the wider spectrum, of nature.

Rawling’s friend, Anne Stevenson, said: “Fly-fishing was in Tom Rawling’s blood, like farming, he accorded to each of these activities the violence that he understood to be integral to nature’s cycle of creation and destruction.”

In comparison to poets such as Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, who began writing early in their lives and established themselves poets before completing their degrees, Rawling did not begin to write until after his parents died in 1969 and his retirement from teaching in 1977.

It was then that he began to explore and reflect on his past, his family and his life in Ennerdale. He was never a poet to bend the truth or overextend things, his writing was very personal and honest, and in some cases very raw. He spoke of the violence of nature and the slaughter of animals amongst other things, but with a neutral understanding which he took as simply part of nature’s design and overall structure.

Despite, however, his unique approach, Rawling’s work was never really acknowledged while he was alive. Although published by Oxford University Press, in a collection titled Ghosts at My Back, in 1982, poor sales led to the book falling out of print and it wasn’t until LDHS’s decision to make his work available again this year, that much of his poetry had been in print since then. Rawling wrote a number of poems, despite not beginning until his late fifties. However, one of his biggest worries was that his poems would not survive his death. He hoped that it would be not only his family who would appreciate them, but also the countrymen he identified with as well. But with this new collection, which also features Rawling’s personal photographs, his work can now be remembered and rediscovered in the region which meant so much to him.

How Hall Poems and Memories: A Passion for Ennerdale will be launched at the 2009 Ennerdale Show on Wednesday, August 26.

‘There’s always a bed for you, Tom,

Whenever you come to Bridge End’,

Offered, if not an end, at least

A break in home hostilities,

A bridge of refuge, back to Ennerdale,

Hills to look up to,

Clear waters flowing.

Parents would not forbid a visit

To grandparents, and Aunt Jane

Who must have known,

But spoke of the fishing

I’d come for, in the beck

By the bridge at the end other garden.

‘Dinner at twelve’, and ‘Back before dark’,

Were freely construed,

She found me tins and thread and such

From all the store she kept

To come in useful,

A rag I’ve wrapped a reel in

For fifty years.

She did not ask me

Where I’d been; I told her.

Wet feet were not a crime.

She praised my catch, however small,

Before she fed me.

I slept deep in feathers,

Woke revived by the steady tick

Of her longcase clock