The Written Image: Shelley Jackson’s “Snow”

From the January/February 2020 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

This winter readers can look forward to the next installments of writer and artist Shelley Jackson’s “Snow,” which she calls a “a story in progress, weather permitting.” Since 2014, Jackson has delivered the story by writing one word at a time on the slushy playgrounds, frosted stoops, and other snowy spaces of her neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. A photograph of each word is then shared on Instagram (@snowshelleyjackson).

“To approach snow too closely is to forget what it is,” begins the text, which describes fantastical snow made up of such unexpected wonders as clock faces and the scalps of shrews. “Snow” is just one of Jackson’s projects in which ephemerality is integral to her text. “Skin” exists only as tattoos of words on the bodies of 2,095 volunteers; when each dies their word is lost from the story. The last storms of spring 2019 left “Snow” at a cliff-hanger—only the next blizzard can reveal what’s coming with “the long thaw of…”