Spending time in the chemotherapy ward at the age of sixteen, while others his age rarely had such heavy worries, Max Ritvo did what he knew best: he wrote poetry. Ritvo had been diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare pediatric cancer. After a college degree from Yale University, a Master’s from Columbia University and acclaimed works published in The New Yorker and Boston Review, Ritvo died, last year, at age 25. Along the way, he spoke and wrote openly about his cancer journey with a clear and intimate outlook on life. His poetry collection, Four Reincarnations, was published posthumously to great praise.
On October 8, Hudson Valley Writers’ Center will celebrate the work and life of Max Ritvo when it welcomes his mother, Ariella Ritvo-Silfka, as well as award-winning poet Kaveh Akbar and award-winning playwright Sarah Ruhl, to read his work. Ruhl will also read from her upcoming book Letters From Max, which includes letters of correspondence between her and Ritvo as she became his mentor and friend.
Ritvo seamlessly shifted, sometimes within one poem, from words that focused on death and fighting to words that questioned the meaning of death and of his purpose in life. Perhaps it was the impending reality of his death that gave him freedom in his words, but in him opened a vulnerability and frankness about life, life’s loss, and life left behind that ultimately taught him and others about the importance of self-reflection. For more info, visit: writerscenter.org.
Photo caption: Max Ritvo (photo credit: Ashley Woo)
A version of this article first appeared in the October issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.