I first came across Paul's poetry in an anthology in college, and scribbled down his poem "Envoy" on an old notebook, hiding in the back room of the school bookstore, because I couldn't afford to buy the book. Later, in graduate school, I found a number of his books in the college library, including the elusive In Baltic Circles, which I just adored.
I'm a composer, and I wanted to make a set of art songs for voice and piano out of Paul's words. On a whim, I wrote him at an address I found on the internet, and to my surprise, he wrote me back, and was extraordinarily helpful and kind and convivial. When I finished the songs, I sent him a recording in the mail. He was flattered by my interest in his work, seemed to be amused by the songs, and invited me out for a meal next time I was in New York.
I was still in my late 20s, and Paul took me to a favorite place, one with steak and fries and character and cigarette smoke. He was an amazing dinner companion, full of great stories, and an excellent listener, and so tolerant of my youthful foolishness, and just a fine upstanding gentleman. I felt, and still feel, honored to have met him and spent that wonderful evening with him in NY, where he showed me kindness and class, with a healthy dose of sarcasm.
Later, he mailed me copies of his newer books, because he thought I'd enjoy them... and I did. No big reason, no ulterior motive that I know of. He just wanted to share more of his poetry, and I was thrilled to share. What a great poet and a great man Paul was. Thanks for the laughs, and for the steak.