Bodenheim, Maxwell (1892-1954) by Gilbert, Lindsey

Maxwell Bodenheim A Jazz-Age bohemian, frequented the literary circles, and later the street corners, of New York City’s Greenwich Village. Between 1912 and 1946, he produced ten volumes of poetry and thirteen novels, along with several plays and essays. Known for his long bouts of homelessness, multiple marriages, and violent death near the Bowery, Bodenheim is more mythologized than read. Yet his poems, particularly his earliest experiments with free verse, were well received by such contemporaries as and , who praised the audacity of their new forms. Maxwell Bodenheim Conrad Aiken William Carlos Williams Bodenheim first surfaced as a (). Born in 1892, he was the only child of Alsatian immigrants who, when Bodenheim was nine, left a small railroad town in Mississippi to settle on Chicago’s South Side. Bodenheim’s formal education ended with his expulsion from Hyde Park High School, after which he changed his surname and enlisted in the army. A desertion attempt sent Bodenheim, then seventeen, to prison at Fort Leavenworth, where he remained until his military discharge. His return to Chicago in 1912 marked the beginning of his literary career as his first poems appeared in the pages of and the . He met the major figures of the Chicago literary revival; established a lifelong friendship and rivalry with playwright ; and cultivated the contemptuous persona that would later satirize in his to : young Chicago poet 206 Notes Maxwell Bodenheimer Poetry Little Review Ben Hecht Williams Prologue Kora in Hell Bodenheim pretends to hate most people, including [Ezra] Pound and [Alfred] Kreymborg, but that he really goes to this trouble I cannot imagine. He seems rather to me to have the virtue of self-absorption so fully developed that hate is made impossible. () Williams 27 In 1914, Bodenheim’s first poems appeared in and the . Two years later, he relocated to New York City, where he fell in with the Village artists surrounding . The move was in part a break from the Chicago literati, but Bodenheim continued to collaborate with and others, returning briefly in 1923 to staff ’s . Poetry Little Review Alfred Kreymborg Hecht Hecht Chicago Literary Times As ’s associate and occasional houseguest, Bodenheim became an editor of and a contributor to journals such as the and the . Some remember Bodenheim as the first established writer to show interest in , but his efforts on ’s behalf were limited, and he promised help he never gave, including placement in and the . In 1918, Bodenheim married , who furnished the title for his first collection of poems, (1918). Although Bodenheim’s third novel, (1925), sold thousands of copies after it drew charges of obscenity, Bodenheim’s other books were financial disappointments, and his only steady job, obtained through the Federal Writer’s Project, dissolved in 1940 after his employers learned he had once been involved with the Communist party. In 1938, Bodenheim finalized a divorce with and became estranged from his son, . His second wife, , died in 1950, and he married in 1952, beginning a period of permanent vagrancy. After two years of destitution, during which Bodenheim panhandled on Thompson Street, read aloud at the Raven Club in exchange for food, and sold his poems for alcohol, Bodenheim and were killed in an altercation with another Village transient, who later confessed to their murders. Kreymborg Others Egoist Dial Hart Crane Crane Others Seven Arts Minna Schein Minna and Myself Replenishing Jessica Minna Solbert Grace Finan Ruth Fagan Ruth Fagan In 1925, offered the readers of her version of Maxwell Bodenheim, a youth who began to appear in the magazine’s offices soon after its inception. According to Monroe, Bodenheim went from to as he rose to relative prominence, then began to send to his sometime friends ( 321). Monroe herself received at least a few such letters from Bodenheim, who wrote in 1916, (). Yet Bodenheim remained a contributor throughout the 1920s, and he won the magazine’s Oscar Blumenthal prize in 1939, after ’s death. Many of the poems that Bodenheim submitted to before 1918, including , and , were reprinted in , and his submissions afterward included poems, short prose comments, and a notable reply to ’s critique of mannerism in free verse. Harriet Monroe Poetry frail pale hunted and haunted insistent and emphatic letters full of malign Maxwell Bodenheim I do not care to appear again in your magazine 126 Letters Poetry Monroe Poetry The Interne, To an Enemy To a Discarded Steel Rail Minna and Myself Alice Corbin Henderson —Lindsey Gilbert Selected Works by Maxwell Bodenheim . New York: Knopf, 1920. Advice . Chicago: Covici-McGee, 1923. Blackguard , , . The Interne, The Old Jew, The Miner To an Enemy To a Discarded Steel Rail 4.5 (August 1914): 187-188. Poetry , , , , . . A Man to a Dead Woman The Crucifixion Thoughts While Walking Streets The Steam-Shovel 7.2 (November 1915): 73-75 Poetry . New York: Pagan Publishing, 1918. Minna and Myself New York: Boni and Liveright, 1925. Replenishing Jessica. . A Reply to A. C. H. 14.3 (June 1919): 170-173 Poetry Sappho Answers Aristotle. 18.2 (May 1921): 61–71. Poetry Further Reading . 25.6 (1925): 320–26. Monroe, Harriet Maxwell Bodenheim. Poetry . New York: Twayne, 1970. Moore, Jack B. Maxwell Bodenheim . . Ed. . Detroit: Gale Research, 1986. Murphy, Russell Maxwell Bodenheim. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 45: American Poets, 1880–1945 Peter Quartermain 4.5 (1914): 206. Notes. Poetry and , eds. . New York: Norton, 2002. Parisi, Joseph Stephen Young Dear Editor: A History of Poetry in Letters; The First Fifty Years, 1912–1962 . . Ed. . New York: New Directions, 1970. 1–82. Williams, William Carlos Kora in Hell: Improvisations. In Imaginations Webster Schott

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