Paul was my teacher and advisor during my time at the New School, and he embodied much of what I’d hoped New York would be like, and moreso what poet was. The first day in Paul’s class he passed out some unattributed photocopies of Apollinaire and asked what everyone thought. Trying to prove how good we were at workshop, we gladly ripped the work to shreds. Paul shrugged and just said he had thought it was “pretty good”. Gradually, you came to realize that he was more than well-read. He had read EVERYTHING and remembered most of it. He was the real deal and as a student it made you humbled and excited to be part of it.
He was sparse with his opinion, but if he gave you a compliment he meant it and he should know. He didn’t seem to care a bit about whether he was successful or not, and clearly he read and wrote because he loved it. He was a ferocious reader when he read, had a love for the absurd, and he was always up for a drink after class.
One night outside the Café Loup I asked him what his favorite Shakespeare sonnet was, and he told me it was 73, especially the line “Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang” then explained to me (because I’m dense) that the image was that of transforming the bare branches into a ruined cathedral. He then followed it up with a joke “Why are there so many better dead poets than live ones?”
I shook my head. “Because there’s so many more of them.”
Now there is one more better poet on the wrong side. To quote another Shakespeare line, I shall not look upon his like again.
- Zach Miller