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Maxwell Bodenheim (1892-1954). Courtesy Am I Rite?.

Maxwell Bodenheim (May 26, 1892 - February 6, 1954) was an American poet and novelist who was known as the King of the Greenwich Village Bohemians. His writing brought him international fame during the Jazz Age of the 1920s.


Bodenheim was born Maxwell Bodenheimer in Hermanville, Mississippi, the son of Carrie (born April 1860) and Solomon Bodenheimer (born July 1858). His father was born in Germany and his mother in Alsace-Lorraine. Carrie emigrated to the United States in 1881 and Solomon in 1888. In 1900, the family moved from Mississippi to Chicago. The Federal census gave their residence as 431 46th Street.

Bodenheim and Ben Hecht met in Chicago and became literary friends about 1912, a time when Bodenheim was nicknamed Bogie.[1] (His later years in the Village he was called Bodie.) Together they founded The Chicago Literary Times (1923–1924). The Chicago literary group also included Carl Sandburg, Theodore Dreiser, Edgar Lee Masters, Witter Bynner, Arthur Davison Ficke, Floyd Dell, Vachel Lindsay, and Sherwood Anderson.

Bodenheim began publishing his earliest verse in Poetry Magazine in 1914. A Bodenheim poem was featured in the 1917 Others: An anthology of the new verse, which also included poems by such future luminaries as T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, Sandburg, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens.[2] Over the next 10 years, Bodenheim established himself as a leading American author, publishing 10 books of verse, which incorporate many techniques of the imagists, and 13 novels. His poetry books include Minna and Myself (1918), Advice (1920), Against This Age (1923), The King of Spain (1928), Bringing Jazz! (1930) and Selected Poems 1914–1944 (1946).

Bodenheim's novels include Blackguard (1923), Replenishing Jessica (1925), Ninth Avenue (1926), Georgia May (1927), Naked on Roller Skates (1930) and A Virtuous Girl (1930).

Bodenheim had 3 wives: Minna Schein, married 1918, divorced 1938; Grace Finan, married 1939m died 1950; and Ruth Fagin, married 1952. He and Minna had one son who was born in 1920.

For many years a leading figure of the Bohemian scene in New York's Greenwich Village, Bodenheim deteriorated rapidly after his success in the 1920s and 1930s. Before he married his 2nd wife, Grace, he had become a panhandler. They spent part of their marriage in the Catskills. After she died of cancer, he was arrested and hospitalized several times for vagrancy and drunkenness.


I shall walk down the road.
I shall turn and feel upon my feet
The kisses of Death, like scented rain.
For Death is a black slave with little silver birds
Perched in a sleeping wreath upon his head.
He will tell me, his voice like jewels
Dropped into a satin bag,
How he has tip-toed after me down the road,
His heart made a dark whirlpool with longing for me.
Then he will graze me with his hands
And I will be one of the sleeping silver birds
Between the cold waves of his hair, as he tip-toes on.

His 3rd wife, Ruth, was 28 years his junior. She lived with him in his derelict lifestyle. They were homeless and slept on park benches. He sometimes carried a sign that read, "I Am Blind," to panhandle, even though he was not blind, and he would jot down short poems for money or drinks. Ruth slept with other men and Bodenheim seemed not to mind.

The year before their murder, the Bodenheims spent some time (perhaps 2 months) as guests of the Catholic Worker of Dorothy Day in New York. Day, who had been a friend of Maxwell Bodenheim in Greenwich Village in the 1920's, devotes a chapter to the Bodenheims in her Loaves and Fishes (1963).[3]

Bodenheim and Ruth were murdered by a 25-year-old sociopathic dishwasher, Harold "Charlie" Weinberg, whom they befriended on the streets of the Village. He offered to let them spend the night in his room a few blocks from the Bowery. He was sexually attracted to Ruth, and the 2 of them became active on the floor near the cot where the 62-year-old drunken Bodenheim was supposedly sleeping. Bodenheim got up, challenged Weinberg and they began fighting. Weinberg shot Bodenheim twice in the chest; Ruth was beaten and stabbed 4 times in the back. Weinberg, taking advantage of the climate of McCarthyite repression, confessed to the double homicide, affirming that "I ought to get a medal. I killed two Communists."[4] He was judged insane and sent to a mental institution.

Hecht said he would pay for the funeral. Bodenheim's ex-wife, Minna, made arrangements to have him buried in her family plot in Cedar Park Cemetery, Emerson, New Jersey.


Bodenheim's memoir, My Life and Loves in Greenwich Village, released six months after his death in 1954, was ghostwritten by Samuel Roth, who had been cheaply paying a down-and-out Bodenheim for his biographical stories about Greenwhich Village at the time of his murder. Hecht based his 1958 play Winkelberg on the life of the Bohemian poet.

A biography titled Maxwell Bodenheim by Jack B. Moore was published in 1970. A doctoral disstertaton, "The Necessity of Rebellion: The novels of Maxwell Bodenheim," was produced by Arthur B. Sacks at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1975.



  • Minna and Myself (with Minna Bodenheim; with foreword by Louis Untermeyer). New York: Pagan, 1918.
  • Advice: A book of poems. New York: Knopf, 1920.
  • Against This Age. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1923; New York: AMS Press, 1975.
  • The Sardonic Arm. Chicago: Covici-McGee, 1923.
  • Returning to Emotion. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1927; New York: AMS Press, 1975.
  • The King of Spain: A book of poems. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1928; New York: AMS Press, 1975.
  • Bringing Jazz! New York: Liveright, 1930; New York: AMS Press, 1975.
  • Lights in the Valley. New York: Harbinger House, 1942.
  • Seven Poets in Search of an Answer (by Maxwell Bodenheim, Joy Davidman, Langston Hughes, Aaron Kramer, Alfred Kreymborg, Martha Millet, & Norman Rosten; edited by Thomas Yoseloff). New York: B. Ackerman, 1944.
  • Selected Poems, 1914-1944. New York: B. Ackerman / Beechhurst Press, 1946.



  • Blackguard. Chicago: Covici-McGee, 1923.
  • Cutie: A warm mama (with Ben Hecht). Chicago: privately published, printed by by the Hechtshaw Press, 1924.
  • Crazy Man. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1924.
  • Replenishing Jessica. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1925; New York: AMS Press, 1975.
  • Ninth Avenue. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1926; New York: Avon, 1951.
  • Georgie May. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1928.
  • Sixty Seconds. New York: Liveright, 1929; New York: AMS Press, 1975.
  • Naked on Roller Skates: A novel. New York: Liveright, 1930.
  • A Virtuous Girl. New York: Liveright, 1930.
  • Duke Herring. New York: Liveright, 1931.
  • Run, Sheep, Run: A novel. New York: Liveright, 1932.
  • 6 A.M. New York: Liveright, 1932.
  • New York Madness. New York: Macaulay, 1933.
  • Slow Vision. New York: Macaulay, 1934.

Short fiction[]


  • My Life and Loves in Greenwich Village (ghostwritten by Samuel Roth). New York: Bridgehead Books, 1954.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]

Audio / video[]


Poet To His Love, by Maxwell Bodenheim


The Old Jew by Maxwell Bodenheim

  • Recordings of Poets Reading Their Own Poems: John Peale Bishop and Maxwell Bodenheim (LP). Washington, DC: Library of Congress Recording Laboratory, 1961.[5]

See also[]


  1. Troubadour, Alfred Kreymborg. Boni and Liveright: New York, 1925
  2. "Stevens' 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird'", Nancy Bogen, Exlicator, Summer 2004, Vol. 62 Issue 4, p217-221
  3. Day, Dorothy (1963). Loaves and Fishes. New York: Harper & Row. pp. 151–55. 
  4. Burns, Jim. "Maxwell Bodenheim". The Penniless Press. Retrieved 25 Apr. 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 Search results = au:Maxwell Bodenheim, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, May 14, 2015.

External links[]

Audio / video
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