Poet's Sampler: Max Ritvo
Sep 23, 2015
Max Ritvo is a poet of ecstasies.
He is a transmogrifier of suffering and holder of “bird-shaped hope.” He is also a Realist, a gifted comic, an astronomer, a child genius, a Surrealist, a brainiac, and a purveyor of pure (and impure) joy. His work is composed, quite simply, of candor, of splendor, and of abandon. It is suffused with mammalian warmth; it is a totem of incarnation and astonishment. In the diffused lavender corridors of an impending death, his work is glittered and littered, riddled and rattled with life, its compassions and passions, its fervor.
To be in the audience of the wildly compelling theaters of Ritvo’s first manuscript, Eight Reincarnations, is to be transfixed as you watch (and listen to) a young man at the absurdly slender edge of the proscenium of his lines, ready and able (and wildly willing!) to fall, but not falling, not letting go, not at all. He risks the ridiculous. He courts the sublime. Just when you’re ready (wide-eyed, concerned) to ask, is he really willing to commit that to the page?—he has already done it, and there’s no turning back.
And you want him to go on, on with the impossible stardusts of his effulgences, his brilliance of ebullience (unlike any other). You want this work to stay put—in this world and the one after as well. He can write the dreadful beautiful. He can make the unbeautiful humane. You want his look on life to go on, ceaselessly. His donnée is boundlessness, but clenched by the hard, unbittered gasp (and grasp) of finity. Not just the abstract kind that we can all imagine, all confect. But the concrete kind. The real real world. The what-it-is-to-be-present-in-this-life, transformed by the constant nearness of its end. “Jesus, it’s beautiful. / Great mother of big apples it is a pretty / World,” Kenneth Patchen wrote. “O you’re a merry bastard Mr. Death / And I wish you didn’t have no hand in this game / Because it’s too damn beautiful for anybody to die.” Ritvo: “We are becoming a bulb / in the ground of the living, / in the winter of being alive.”
September 23, 2015