POETRY

The Final Voicemails: Poems

Milkweed. Sept. 2018. 88p. ed. by Louise Glück. ISBN 9781571315113. $22. POETRY
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OrangeReviewStarDiagnosed with cancer in his teens, Ritvo died in 2016 at age 25, near the release date of his remarkable debut collection, Four Reincarnations. This second collection, edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Glück, again offers his distinctive voice—partly insouciant, partly penetratingly smart—imparting an immediate sense of what it's like to die as he effectively reminds us what it's like to live. "Nobody ever tells you how busy loneliness is," he observes, adding, "I'm just exasperated. Everywhere life-sounds/ swarm this, our shared pond." But if Ritvo makes us acutely aware of what we skim through daily, he refuses to play guru: "My baldness is not wisdom," he insists, and quickly reminds us that each day he's learning, too: "I thought I would at least know myself." Ritvo is generous to take us along on his final journey, and along the way, as he shows us a bare tree, a blue-eyed crow, the joy of moving, how stars sometimes don't join in constellations on a dark, wet night, he's making us see, really see.
VERDICT Highly recommended.

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