Discipline: Literature – poetry

Maxwell Bodenheim

Discipline: Literature – poetry
MacDowell fellowships: 1921, 1922, 1923, 1925
Maxwell Bodenheim (1892 –1954) was an American poet and novelist. Bodenheim and writer Ben Hecht met in Chicago and became literary friends about 1912. They co-founded The Chicago Literary Times (1923–1924). Contributors included Carl Sandburg, Theodore Dreiser, Edgar Lee Masters, Witter Bynner, Arthur Davison Ficke, Floyd Dell, Vachel Lindsay, and Sherwood Anderson. 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 second wife, Grace, he had become a panhandler. After she died of cancer, he was arrested and hospitalized several times for vagrancy and drunkenness. He married Ruth Fagin, 28 years his junior, who shared his derelict lifestyle. They were homeless and slept on park benches. He sometimes panhandled, composing short poems for money or drinks. The two were murdered at a flophouse in Manhattan by a 25-year-old dishwasher. The killer confessed to the double homicide, but said in his defense, "I ought to get a medal. I killed two Communists." Journalist Dorothy Day, a friend of Bodehnheim’s from the 1920s, devoted a chapter to Maxwell and his first wife, Minna Schein, in her Loaves and Fishes (1963).