Poem, Art and Essay: ‘Visual Snow’

This is a near-duplicate post from Aiden’s own website about one of their favourite works, ‘Visual Snow’. It was originally a poem, and then became a drawing and even an animation.

This post is made to accompany the fact that I was the Featured Artist for Issue 7 of The Oxford Blue‘s The Blueprint with the theme of Reflection! Super happy with my work overall. I wanted to expand on my poem and the accompanying artwork, hence this post.


“Visual snow
Have you ever heard of it?”
Outside it neither rains nor snows
Inside my eyes is a snowstorm.

“Visual snow?”
You’ve never heard of it.
Outside it neither rains nor snows
Inside You think I’m a weirdo.

This is exactly
What I feared.
This is exactly
How I realised I was weird.

I used to never
Look people in the eyes.
They say “Eyes are the window to the soul.”
Your souls blaze so brightly
I have to avert my gaze.

You thought that I didn’t care,
Wasn’t paying attention.
I still never
Look people in the eyes:
Yet I look between their eyebrows
For You.

The Day
I got my purple lenses
Changed my life.
Goodbye to
Visual snow,
To being (a bit of) a weirdo...

...In public. In private
Outside it neither rains nor snows, yet
Inside my eyes I like to watch the fall of
Visual snow.

Poem inspiration

This is one of the first four poems I wrote in 90 minutes because of the prompt of senses for The Blueprint. Of the four, I believe I structured this one best. So I told the editor this was my favourite! (They’ve since published all four, which is amazing.)

The inspiration is my perceptual processing difficulties. Since I was small, I’ve seen floaters in my eyes. By 12, that progressed to outright visual snow (roll credits!) where anything I looked at was being traced over on repeat. Part of this included my difficulties with clothing, which I mentioned in a previous post. I just assumed it was part of puberty. Especially since I never received any sex ed at school.

I realised this wasn’t normal exactly the way I portrayed it, after a throwaway comment. My conversation partner latched onto it as unusual. I was all surprise.

At 13, I read an article by the late Autistic activist Donna Williams (Polly Samuel) about her visual processing. It sounded very familiar. Lots of visual distortions, looking at things using peripheral vision. These coloured Irlen lenses worked for her. They’re expensive. Yet I wanted to know what it was like to see normally. I needed to.

They did change my life. The visual snow went away. I could look at things head on. I could even look into people’s eyes without feeling overwhelmed. People didn’t treat me like a weirdo. My mental burden decreased.

However, when I’m tired I don’t want to see clearly. Everything gains sharp edges. During those times, I remove my glasses and enjoy my fuzzy, snowy world. I wanted to include that.

Poetry choices

Clearly, there’s a lot of mirroring happening here. First two stanzas are meant to mirror each other almost entirely. Same with the last one. And anytime the title gets name-dropped, it’s in a line on its own. And stanza three is meant to repeat itself too and rhyme.

Speaking of rhyming, none of those original four poems involve consistent rhyme. Now, most of my poems do. I think at that point, I was more focused on my message rather than focusing on how I choose to portray it. Not sure if that means my more recent rhyming poems are better. They’re just different in terms of use of language.

I wanted to avoid mentioning autism or Irlen lenses. Since fundamentally, sensory processing disorder and autism are different. The latter just tends to involve the former. I also believe that medicalisation dehumanises people. At least, that was my experience of hospital appointments and hospitalisation. So I didn’t want to do that to a poetic portrayal of anyone, let alone myself.

Looking back while writing this piece, I decided to capitalise references to the character of ‘You’. This is because of the fact that they’re clearly important to poetic me. So what better way to make that clear than to capitalise them? I was actually surprised looking back. Normally even for my more recent poems, I change at least some of the words in hindsight, whereas for this poem I didn’t. Clearly early poet me did a good enough job of it!

Art choices

Just in case you forgot what it looks like

Let’s go with the literal first. Brown is the colour of my eyes. Purple is the colour of my Irlen lenses, which help to remove the visual overstimulation that I experience. Perhaps for this reason, it’s also my favourite colour – it’s honestly the truth that I define myself as bisexual as opposed to pansexual because I love it too much to give up!

Interestingly, brown is my least favourite. I think this is because of how common it is when everyone told me throughout my whole life what a weirdo I was. So I despised my eyes even at 19 (I no longer do), so I believe that it’s actually perfect for this piece: a common colour that hides an outsider.

In terms of my presentation, I really love the yin-yang symbol from Chinese philosophy. It’s had a massive impact on my personal viewpoint on duality, unity and liminality. So I wanted to pay homage to it, as it also provided the perfect opportunity to include the snowflakes, which are a light shade of purple. It’s harder to see them, yet there are also brown spots in the purple, in order to balance out the symbol.

I used an image of my own eye as a reference. Firstly, this is poem is about how I perceive the world. It only makes sense for my eye to be featured! More importantly, I really wanted it to be clear the author is Asian as autism and other disabilities are often dismissed as a possibility in people of colour. This is due to racial stereotyping and bias within the community. And of course, the fact that I now love my eyes and see the detail inside them.

Adventures into Animation

Perhaps the most exciting thing about this all is that this is the reason I started to foray into animation! So below is the animation!

I’m super happy with it, so I had to include it! Which means that now I’ve got a public YouTube channel lol. If I make further animations, I’ll probably upload them there. So if you like it, please do subscribe to the channel and to my website if you don’t already!

Anyway. I’m super grateful to the amazing team at The Blueprint for supporting me and for being the reason I got into poetry at the first place! So here’s to more artistic experimentation 😊

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