MOST OF the Washington poetry establishment crowded into two small rooms at the Folger Annex the other night to give a great big hello to John Pauker.
Pauker, an angry sprite who was an early editor of the celebrated little magazine Furioso, who had a play on Broadway for three nights and who roamed the world for 30 years with his seven languages as a U.S. Information Agency policy guidance officer, wore a Nehi-orange sweat suit with a butter-yellow collar. At 62, his famous electric-red hair has turned a bristling white.
For two hours he sat in a deep chair taking it: one encomium after another from old pals, such as Reed Whittemore and Josephine Jacobsen, both former Library of Congress poetry consultants, and by letter from Howard Nemerov, who dedicated his first book of poetry to him, and O.B. Hardison Jr., Folger Library director, and the likes of poets Linda Pastan, Ann Darr, Betty Parry, Jim Angleton (another Furioso editor and a former CIA counterintelligence chief), publisher Robert Sargent, Ernest Kroll, Grace Cavalieri, Elisavietta Ritchie, Rudd Fleming and William Claire, not to mention closet poets from USIA and Bibi Boevi Zankli, prince of Togo, poet and writer.
Finally he could stand it no longer. He went to the mike, introduced his wife Pam, whom he calls Shoo Shoo. "She is my life and my wife," he said, and then he read his "Ill Poem": The ills of a poet are dull and routine affairs: Neglect, misunderstanding. To liven his life, let's kick a poet downstairs And hear his head crunch on the landing.
Then he thanked the somewhat bemused audience and said he would do the same for them some day.
Born in Hungary, Pauker couldn't speak a word of English when he came here as a child, but eventually found his way to the Fieldston School in New York, where he met Nemerov and poet Muriel Rukeyser, and to Yale, where he ran into Whittemore, among others.
"John introduced me to Nemerov," Whittemore recalled, and soon all three were putting out Furioso, which Whittemore had started. In the early days, they wrote most of the stuff themselves and had to use pseudonyms to spread the credit. Some of the magazine's best work was by "Thomas Rowley," who was Pauker.
Claire, a poet and education executive who for years ran the Washington little magazine Voyages, told about organizing the Folger's first poetry meeting, establishing a long tradition. Among the readers at that historic session were John Pauker and Linda Pastan. Pastan herself produced a photo of the group.
Pauker, whose poems have appeared in dozens of magazines, are anthologized and have been published in three volumes, runs a sort of home-gallery called the More Fun House in town. A consistent supporter of new art, he once bought a whole roomful of sculpture welded by Lorton inmates. One sample of his simple-seeming work: Trample the snow respectfully, children. The crystals Are special in being unique, no two alike. I do not urge this too firmly. I know there are other Considerations which press upon all alike. Later we may find time to consider the crystals. Right now we are at war. But try to be gentle.