I first met Will in Washington DC around 1970 or so. He was an older white bearded gentle man (and a gentleman too) with a very frail young wife. Both were so soft spoken at a time when I seemed to be the loudest poet on the block that I felt a mild and quiet criticism of my high octane poetic explosions.
But Will let me know privately and quietly that he appreciated my work and my style, that there was room for all kinds of approaches to the art of poetry we both devoted so much of our lives to.
He even kept in touch, which I became notoriously bad at for a few decades (and can still be sometimes) over the years (he sent me one of his recent books not that long ago, with a sweet note). But don't get me wrong, he wasn't all sweetness and light, he stepped on probably as many toes as I did, only more gently, and maybe even more relentlessly.
This obit is a pretty good summary of what he was about. I like the quote from him at the end so much I'll reproduce it here for anyone who doesn't bother to check out the link to the article (or as I just discovered when I checked the link, doesn't want to sign up to try and read the thing!):
"We live in a time of broken spirits," he said in a 1992 Star article. "We live in a Lazarus age. We're all partly dead, and we need to learn how to raise each other from the dead — without pretending to be Jesus in the process."
"Everybody is broken, but everybody has the capacity to help each other."