Thursday, 15 March 2007


For Poetry Thursday's idea this week, we were to choose a word or words we didn't know the meanings of and write about them. A little like unwrapping a present with your eyes closed.
The word I have chosen is ‘cassoulet’, which without looking to see how it should be pronounced, I hear in my head as ‘cass-oo-lay’. The spelling of it reminds me of ‘poulet’ the French word for hen, and so the idea of a heavy-boned bird comes to mind.
To me the word ‘cassoulet’ has a sad sound. A sound of regret and unattainable desires. Of unrequited flight.


A squat and stocky bird
a little too heavy

a little too drab,
the cassoulet

cannot fly very high
but must instead

bear the heaviness
of fattened poultry.

And yet each morning
just before daylight scolds

such impertinence,
the cassoulet thinks itself

a lark swept up in an eddy
of lightness. Oh cassoulet!

Now, after looking up the meaning of cassoulet, I find it to be a meat and beans casserole! However, as the next word down in my dictionary is ‘cassowary’ - a description for any large, flightless Australian bird - I am led to the conclusion that when I randomly chose the word ‘cassoulet’ my eye also picked up the word below, ‘cassowary’, (the meaning of which I do know) and somehow in the interim, my brain juxtaposed the two words.

Bird stew anyone?


Crafty Green Poet said...

Well you really made me feel sympathy for this poor bird and then the joy of the ending!

Beaman said...

Nice poem. I was actually thinking of a casserole whilst reading this piece. The terrible idea of the bird as part of the casserole came to mind. Or a casserole with legs and wings. The word is a great choice.

Anonymous said...

The actual meaning of the word is too funny! The poem (before I read the definition) is very tender and sympathetic. Could you write a funny poem about a casserole wishing it was a bird? :b

gautami tripathy said...

Nice verse. Instead if bird I too wasthinking of edible stuff. I did enjoy reading this.


wendy said...

There is ALWAYS, always a sad truth and honesty to your poems...even about fat hens.

Such a talent! By the way, your book arrived the other day. I am enjoying it immensly.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

I LOVE your little cassoulet! I, myself, am quite like a cassoulet!

Good job!

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

I would love to have one of your books! WHere can I buy one? Or two?

Regina said...

Oh, how sad- the cassoulet can only dream of flight...
What a wonderful poem...

Catherine said...

I did know the meaning of the word (you got the pronunciation just right), but I think your definition of it fits perfectly, too. I felt sad for the flightless bird as I read your poem.

Tammy Brierly said...

Bird stew...LOL This theme hurt my head instead of inspiring my mind but you did a wounderful job CB!

Emily said...

This kind of made me think of the dodo bird because i feel so sorry for it. And cassoulet makes me think of casserole so bird stew indeed! :)

rel said...

This weeks prompt was more of a challenge than i was ready for!
I like what you did with cassoulet, particularly because I've cooked this dish and because it is one of the most delicious repasts I partook of while in France. Of course now when ever I eat cassoulet I'll think of you and wonder why there isn't chicken on my plate. ;-)
Since others are telling you, i will also mention that I received "feeding the dogs" poems by KMC last week and have makeing it my bed time reading.
btw....I like your poem this week!

Mary J. said...

I love the lines "just before daylight scolds/such impertinence." I'm a big Jane Austen fan, so impertinent is one of my favorite words. Neat words you found.

L.M.Noonan said...

I liked the poem a great deal. Particularly the way you used the sound or image a word can evoke. many women appropriate imagery,texts, single words and give them new meaning. making them part a personal vocabularly and symbolism.
it who cares if its cassowary, casserole or cassoulet.

Anonymous said...

You might not be aware of how singer Celine Dion hits her chest with her fist when she gets to a really poignant part of her songs.

Your poems are like that for me. When I read them, I hit my chest and say, My God. Your way with language is delicious.

Rethabile said...

Yes, cassoulet, from the south west of France (Toulouse). Heavy, winter food.

Beautiful poem of a bird called cassoulet. You write like you know it. And I'm willing to believe that, yes, somehow the bird you know replaced the one you didn't know in your subconscious mind. great.

Norma said...

I immediately thought casserole, so thought a fattened bird just perfect. But then to find the next word too--what a treat.

My PT is up.

dinzie said...

hahahah :O)

Now I must wake McD up and tell her :O)

Avus said...

Like the poem, Chief!
Words often suggest a meaning that is totally different to what they really mean and there should be an "alternative" dictionary for them.
For instance, to "postulate" = to forget someone's birthday and send an apology card days afterwards.

mareymercy said...

Cassoulet made me think of castanets. All words sound like musical instruments to me, for some reason...

Kay Cooke said...

cgp - Thanks. Th ebird could well be me ;)

beaman - Thanks. There are a few pictures that come to mind.

gt - birds are edible things ...

wendy - Yes! You told me - I am so glad.

pepek- Yes I had myself in mind as well! Take a look at the sidebar to my blog for where to get a book. Thanks :)

rcj - Dreams are all we are left with sometimes

catherine - I was wanting sympathy for the flightless birds.

tammy - Hope you are over your headache by now. :)

emily - I will never forget the meaning of the word now.

rel - Ooh that's exciting about the book.
I'm glad it's a tasty dish - will have to try it myself now!

mary - Yes I think impertinence is a great word.

i.m - You're so right.

dana - Your comment makes me feel the same way!

rethabile - The reason why I wrote like I knew it as you so aptly put it, is because I was thinking of myself as I wrote it.

norma - Yes it was a fascinating process.

dinzie - I hope you weren't so cruel as to do that.

avus - That there is a Thursday poem in itself! I love that idea. And postulate as a late birthday card is brill.

twitches - Just as all words sound like birds to me! (Castanet included - a kind of peacock-y bird ...)

Kamsin said...

I have to say my first thought on reading the word was casserole, which kind of suggests there's some kind of weird link between words and their meanings. The fact that your definition was so close to the similar sounding word found next to it in the dictionary also lends itself to that idea. Perhaps words aren't as arbitrary signifiers of meaning as some might say. It certainly goes to suggest that native speakers have a very deep understanding of the assosications and conotations of words.

apprentice said...

I like the fact you gave it a whole new meaning. It's "stocky" bird indeed, although it's the souffle bird at heart!

In France the recipe varies and changes between towns, but it is a very wholesome and delicious meal, very much in the slow food category!

paris parfait said...

Well done with the prompt. I like your poem. Alas, this is one word I knew the meaning of before reading your poem. After all, I'm married to a guy who is constantly cooking French dishes, including cassoulet! Quite delicious, by the way. :)

Kay Cooke said...

kamsin - Thanks. I agree with your thoughts on language and how meanings of words impact on more than one level.
I love how well you've used language to describe your thoughts!

apprentice - Ah yes ... you've put it so cleverly! Thank you - a souffle bird at heart ... I do like that! :)

pp - Mmmm - now I am dying to taste some cassoulet!

Anonymous said...

Because I live in France I knew this word. Though I found how you used it fittingly.
Isn't it amazing that the next word did describe a bird. Often our mind knows more than we trust it too.

Kay Cooke said...

tongue in cheek - You are so right. I'm surprised how many people knew the word!

Becky Willis Motew said...

I'll have some of that bird stew, CB. I always want to think Cassoulet is a make of car by Volkswagen, but I think that may be Cabriolet, derivation of which I do not know. Sounds like cabernet, though, always a welcome sound.

Anonymous said...

Frank Wilson of Books, Inq. is an expert cassoulet cook -- he's even posted a picture of one he made on his blog. I sent him a link to your poem post, see:

You've had a redesign since I was here last (I usually view blogs in RSS so can't tell what they look like) - very nice.

kj said...

chief, for some reason i can't leave a comment on your inspiration post, so i want to tell you here how inspired i was by it! i LOVED hearing about your life. the postcard from your son to his brother left a lump in my throat. aren't we lucky to be able to see and appreciate what's in front of us?

i wish you the best always!

Kay Cooke said...

becky - I could write another poem after that comment - yes - I can see what you mean about cabrolet ... Aren't words fun?!

maxine - Thanks so much! I am not au fait with rss feeds and so I don't know what I've done ... I may have switche dit off again as I've been fiddling trying to get comments back up on new posts. Oh dear ...

kj - As I said above - I've been fiddling and must've done something wrong. But hopefully it's been fixed - thanks! Thanks for the comments - glad it hit a corresponding note.


The cover of my new poetry book, Upturned. Launched on June 25th. So much has happened since I last wrote here.  We have been in and now out...