Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Max Ritvo, Poet Who Chronicled His Cancer Fight, Dies at 25 - The New York Times

Max Ritvo, an accomplished poet who spent much of his life under the cloud of cancer while gaining wide attention writing and speaking about it, died of the disease on Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 25.

His mother, Dr. Ariella Ritvo-Slifka, confirmed his death.

Mr. Ritvo talked about his work and illness in interviews on radio programs including "Only Human" on WNYC and "The New Yorker Radio Hour." His poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine and The New Yorker, and his first published volume of poetry, "Four Reincarnations," will appear in the fall.

The poet Louise Glück, who taught Mr. Ritvo at Yale, called the book "one of the most original and ambitious first books in my experience," adding that his work is "marked by intellectual bravado and verbal extravagance."

Mr. Ritvo was 16 when he learned he had Ewing's sarcoma, a rare pediatric cancer. He had gone to doctors after feeling pain in his side. At first they suspected pneumonia, but fearing something worse they took a tissue sample while he was under sedation.

He woke up in a cancer ward.

"I remember thinking, 'This is so terrible!'" he told Mary Harris of WNYC. "'I'm just a young, acrobatic, wiry, handsome bloke of 16, and it's so sad for all these old people, because they must have run out of beds and I just have pneumonia.'"

A year of aggressive treatment brought about remission, and over the next four and a half years he finished high school and attended Yale.

The cancer returned in Mr. Ritvo's senior year. He nevertheless completed his degree in 2013 and this year earned a master of fine arts from Columbia University, where he became a teaching fellow. He also served as poetry editor at Parnassus: Poetry in Review.

Throughout his illness, he rejected the clichés of being an "inspiring victim of cancer," his mother said. He counseled other families going through treatment for Ewing's sarcoma, and spoke out often about the disease and the importance of research.

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