In 1912, at Easter, I was starving in New York, and had been for a number of months. From time to time I took a job, by force of necessity, but I didn’t keep it a week and if I could manage to get my pay sooner than that I quit sooner, impatient to get on with my sessions of reading at the central public library. My poverty was extreme and every day I looked worse: unshaven, trousers in corkscrews, shoes worn out, hair long, coat stained and faded and without buttons, no hat or tie, having sold them one day for a penny in order to buy a plug of the world’s worst chewing tobacco.
The Improvised Life has a charming excerpt from Cendrars’s interview with the Paris Review on writing his masterpiece, Easter in New York, the origins of his nom de plume, as well as a link to the poem in french and english.
In keeping with the tradition of A Different Stripe, we’re obligated to refer you to this picture of Cendrars with his cat.