This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for July 5, 2017: Graveyard Shift At Ace’s Truck Stop

July 5, 2017: birthday: Jean Cocteau

It’s the birthday of French poet and film director Jean Cocteau, born in Maisons-Laffitte, near Paris (1889). He published his first book of poems, Aladdin’s Lamp, when he was 19 (1909), but later disowned his youthful poetry, saying, “I was charged with the electricity of poetry but bewildered by praise of a doubtful value, and the reading of bad books.” During World War I, he served as an ambulance driver in Belgium and flew with the aviator Roland Garros, an experience that inspired the poems in his book The Cape of Good Hope (1919). Back in Paris, he struck up friendships with artists, musicians, and poets, including Picasso, Apollinaire, and Satie. He created ballets with the Ballets Russes; wrote the libretto for Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio Oedipus the King (1927); and penned several plays, including a version of the Oedipus myth called The Infernal Machine (1936). He also wrote and directed films, including The Blood of a Poet (1932), Beauty and the Beast (1947), and Orpheus (1950). His films are filled with startling images, like a candelabra fashioned out of living arms in Beauty and the Beast. He said, “The job of the poet (a job which can’t be learned) consists of placing those objects of the visible world which have become invisible due to the glue of habit, in an unusual position which strikes the soul and gives them a tragic force.”