- Art, Birthday, Film, Quotes, Reading, Writing

“Find first, seek later.”


Happy birthday, Jean Cocteau! Here are some quotes from the poet, playwright, novelist, designer, filmmaker, visual artist and critic.

“Anything of any importance cannot help but be unrecognizable, since it bears no resemblance to anything already known.”

“Hate only hatred.”

“Expect neither reward nor beatitude. Return noble waves for ignoble.”

“Allow the power of the soul to grow as flagrant as the power of sex.”

“Fight any instinct to be humorless, for humorlessness is the worst of all absurdities.”

“Be helpful, even if it compromises you.”

“Respect movements, flee schools.”

“Everything one does in life, even love, occurs in an express train racing toward death.”

“Take a commonplace, clean it and polish it, light it so that it produces the same effect of youth and freshness and originality and spontaneity as it did originally, and you have done a poet’s job. The rest is literature.”

“Such is the role of poetry. It unveils, in the strict sense of the word. It lays bare, under a light which shakes off torpor, the surprising things which surround us and which our senses record mechanically.”

“The extreme limit of wisdom—that’s what the public calls madness.”

“Art is science made clear.”

“What the public criticizes in you, cultivate. It is you.”

“Mirrors would do well to reflect a little more before sending back images.”

“The instinct of nearly all societies is to lock up anybody who is truly free. First, society begins by trying to beat you up. If this fails, they try to poison you. If this fails too, they finish by loading honors on your head.”

“You’ve never seen death? Look in the mirror every day and you will see it like bees working in a glass hive.”

“A film is a petrified fountain of thought.”

“Art produces ugly things which frequently become more beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.”

“Poetry is indispensable—if I only knew what for.”

“We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?”

“An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.”

“What is line? It is life. A line must live at each point along its course in such a way that the artist’s presence makes itself felt above that of the model…With the writer, line takes precedence over form and content. It runs through the words he assembles. It strikes a continuous note unperceived by ear or eye. It is, in a way, the soul’s style, and if the line ceases to have a life of its own, if it only describes an arabesque, the soul is missing and the writing dies.”

“True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.”

“I am a lie who always speaks the truth.”

“I have a piece of great and sad news to tell you: I am dead.”


  • John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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