Writing ~ Cornwall

December 2022 – April 2023

Pimp My Viz is a response to walking in the East Looe Valley, following the track-side lanes,

wandering in ambivalence
seeing, not being seen
the quiet winter

The valley is a holder of creative potential and also a site of economic tension. As processes of rural upgrade and homogenisation take hold, how is the power of this edgeland shifting, and where does its promise now lie? How are economic tensions and threats from climate crisis playing out, and how might we resist the temptations of sentimentality and nostalgia in our views of the rural?

East and West
a double-faced landscape
on/off season, seen/unseen

The East Looe and West Looe rivers rise on Bodmin Moor and flow into the sea at Looe. South of Liskeard, the valleys are steep-sided, wooded and relatively inaccessible despite the railway line that runs down the East Looe Valley.  This single track railway used to carry copper and tin from the mines on Bodmin Moor down to the harbour, and there is also an abandoned canal. So there is a thick sense of the past and the hidden. The train carries tourists to the coast in summer but is barely used in winter. There are four request stops along the line and trains are rarely required to stop. The lanes that run along both valleys are narrow, high-hedged and barely a car’s width in some places, with few passing spaces. 

In winter, there is a sense of void. This is off the beaten track – yet it is, like so many of our countryside places, owned, managed, territoried, even where it appears lost, wild and unkempt.  

Pimp my Viz is a really simple concept. The back of a high viz vest looks like a frame, ready for something more interesting than a company logo. It’s a simple, cheap, direct, democratic and visual approach to presenting and distributing words. It’s a way of thinking about a spectrum of invisibility. How do I feel about wearing my poetry in a very public way (albeit on my back)? What are my layers of invisibility, as an older woman living in a rural location? Is there freedom and  some sort of power to be claimed from these positions?

My eyesight is poor, and deteriorating. I need bright light in order to read. I need a high-viz life in order to function.

High viz is a rural uniform. Wellies and high viz are our culture/couture, associated with manual, outdoor labour, and an enabler of rural work and rural leisure.

High viz symbolises protection (and also possibly of over-protection and control). It has community resonances of marshalling, safety, and care. And connotations of uprising and insurrection.

High viz is  cheap, ubiquitous, and everyday, but lasts forever – the opposite of throwaway and single use.