• 5th Wall Press

A Didactic Letter to Another Poet Regarding Vocabulary

Updated: Mar 18

Dear Mr. S_____,

We regret to inform you that you have used up your allotted lifetime supply of the following words. Please refrain from employing them other than as directed herein, or we may find it necessary to bring violations to the attention of the Adjective Police.

Autumn (not even in lower case. This goes for Summer, Winter, and Spring as well. Seasons, if absolutely unavoidable [and we prefer to believe that they are not—we spend our time indoors, basking in the gentle glow of the computer, refrigerator, and microwave], should be indicated by associated activities such as snow-shoveling [the presence or invocation of a religious personage is optional] or mosquito-swatting.)

Blue (“Sapphire,” “Azure,” “Aquamarine,” and other indications of hue are likewise verboten—try substituting “moody” or “sullen.”)

Breeze (except as a verb.)

Cool (unless as an exclamation. And we would prefer that you use “Cold” only with “Duck,” to evoke the splendor of a vanished past.)

Crisp (only if applied to snack-food consumption.)

Dance (unless Nude, and in conjunction with diatribes about architecture.)

Dream (Wet only.)

Drift (just say Absolutely Not.)

Evening (except as participle. Or perhaps gerund.)

Float (except with ice-cream. Preferably chocolate.)

Fractal (Try “fractious,” “fracture,” or “frangible.” Or “lacy.” “Trippy” is also evocative.)

Garden (except with “hose,” “snake,” or “-variety.”)

Glide (unless an actual glider, porch or otherwise, is involved.)

Gold, or Golden (except with “tooth.”)

Haunting (only when actual revenants are present.)

Languor (We suggest “Macaque” or “Mandrill”—the difference is negligible.)

Lush (except as a noun; see “Cold” and “Ripple.”)

Mirror (only as a doorway to another, less predictable world. Or if it talks.)

Mist (unless an atomizer filled with a substance other than perfume is involved—see “Spark.”)

Moon (except as a verb.)

Morn, or Morning (Electra would look even better in something from, say, Frederick’s of Hollywood.)

Murmur (Muumuu is okay, we suppose; see next entry.)

Night (other than with -ie suffix.)

Orange (“Vitamin C tablet” should function as an adequate substitute.)

Peach (apricot, mango, or papaya may be substituted, if in season. “Peachy” is allowed—see “Cool.”)

Ripple (except as a proper noun.)

Seek (only in dialect; e.g. “He was so seek, my leetla boy …”)

Sense (unless prefaced by “common,” “horse,” or “non-”)

Shimmer (under no circumstances whatsoever. “Shimmy,” though, is acceptable.)

Silk (neither raw nor cooked. “Silkie” okay in faux-maritime ballads.)

Silver (except in bullets.)

Skin (except as a verb.)

Sky (please refer to specific atmospheric strata instead, e.g. troposphere, stratosphere, ionosphere, smog.)

Soft (unless as an exclamation, e.g. “But soft!” or as a modifier indicating cerebral function.)

Spark (except with “plug,” or in conjunction with inflammable liquids.)

Sunlight (unless referring to commercial food or cleaning products.)

Sway (other than as prefix, e.g. “sway-backed.”)

Warm, warmth (try substituting “tepid,” “cozy,” “faire chambrer.”)

Whisper (no oftener than once every six hundred lines. As a noun, we recommend trying “sibilance,” “susurrus,” or just plain “hiss,” although those will also rapidly wear out their respective welcomes. “Whispering” as an adjective is permitted only in the names of retreat or camping locales operated by fundamentalist cults, or right-wing paramilitary groups. As verb substitutes go, we strongly advocate the use of “whimper.”)

Do not be discouraged by this denudation of your vocabulary. Just as leafless trees present a more artistic, soulful aspect than their hirsute counterparts when seen against sunset clouds, your newly spare, terse poems will dramatically increase in strength, power, and dramatic interest, as well as being much, much, much less expensive to print and mail.


Someone dedicated to your best interests

F.J. Bergmann

Madison, WI