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Stephanie Eisler Vance


Poets are not supposed to be jaded. Poets are supposed to feel everything, at once, all the time, and like it. By this measure, before I called myself a poet, I was one; my threshold as an emotional sponge is the stuff of legend.

But since I became a poet, something has changed. Since I became a poet, I am warier of life off the page. This memory bank of distress and disappointment and reverie is enough. Do not give me any more ammunition, do not force me to live through it all twice.

It is not the poetry’s fault. I cannot lay blame on alliterative allegory or sweet couplets, but since I became a poet, I feel jaded, numb, wrung out in an unfamiliar way. And though it is, “jaded” should not be the right word. Jade, the precious stone, after all, is linked to immortality in Chinese lore, and what I feel is very, very mortal. Jade, widely used for its healing properties, even in the most intimate of places — my poetry does not heal me. It slices open my softest bits with a scalpel, ruthless and precise and leaves me to clean up the mess.

Some years ago, I had a dream where I could not stop crying, until some faceless person offered me a tiny jade elephant. The stone soothed me immediately, and when I awoke, I took to the internet to procure one, and it has hung by my bed ever since, talisman of comfort and strength. I do not understand why we call it jaded.

Whatever you call it, poets are not supposed to be that. My weariness betrays me, reveals an imposter in our midst. But to write poetry is to wield its license, too, so perhaps “jaded” can become, “in need of jade,” in need of healing, in need of a glimpse at immortality. This I can relate to.

Jade may mean immortal but jaded is a temporary state. Hunger always returns — an ache to stretch into the universe and consume all it has to offer. And the only way to get there is to heal, to bleed myself out just enough, to use my tools, mineral or otherwise, to replenish the well so that I may re-enter the world with a curious mind and open heart.

I am not yet used to this exhaustion of will, this real-time spinning of straw into gold, and the price that is paid, and there is a price.

But hunger always returns, and when it does, I will be ready.

My debut poetry collection, Made of You, is available here.