Max Ritvo (1990 - 2016)

Max Ritvo, a poet who wrote about his experience with cancer, died Aug. 23, 2016, according to The Associated Press. He was 25.

Ritvo had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma at the age of 16. The rare form of cancer affects bones and soft tissue, most frequently in teenagers and young adults.

His mother, Ariella Ritvo-Slifka, told The Associated Press Friday that her son had died earlier in the week at his home in Los Angeles.

Ritvo was born Dec. 19, 1990, in Los Angeles. His mother said he was precocious and began writing at age 3.

He was able to finish high school after his cancer went into remission. He then attended Yale, where he studied under Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louise Gluck. Despite the return of his cancer during his senior year, he was able to graduate Yale. He went on to earn a master of fine arts from Columbia University.

He became known outside of poetry and literary circles for appearances in the media, particularly on radio and podcasts, giving interviews and reading his poems.


Click to get weekly celebrity death news delivered to your inbox. 


He joined an experimental comedy group while at Yale called His Majesty, the Baby. In the troupe, he wrote and performed sketches based on his experience battling cancer. Humor was an essential part of dealing with his illness.

“When you laugh at something horrible, you’re just illuminating a different side of it that was already there and it’s not a deflection, it makes it deeper and makes it realer,” he said in the WNYC Studios podcast “Only Human.”

His poems have been published in Poetry Magazine and The New Yorker. His first volume of collected poems, “Four Reincarnations,” is scheduled to be published in the fall.

In August 2015, he married his wife, Victoria Jackson-Hanan. The two had met in when he was 15 during a summer academic program at Cambridge University. She moved from England to the United States, and they began dating in 2013.

“He said the day he stopped writing, that would be the end of it,” his wife said in an interview. “He was writing three days before he died.”

Ritvo is survived by his wife; his father, Edward Ritvo; mother, Ariella Ritvo-Slifka; his sisters, Victoria Ritvo Black and Skylre Oryx; and a stepbrother, David Slifka. He was preceded in death by his stepfather, Alan B. Slifka.

We invite you to share condolences for Max Ritvo in our Guest Book.