CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., July 17, 2008 — The story of a William Carlos Williams poem donated last year to Southeast Missouri State University has been published in a commemorative volume issued by the University’s Press.
“About a Little Girl”: A William Carlos Williams Poem and Its Legacy, by Michael Lund and Robert Hamblin, includes a facsimile of Williams’ text, an essay on the history of the manuscript by Lund, a critical commentary on the poem by Hamblin, photographs of the principal figures, and brief essays by two of Williams’ granddaughters, Suzy Williams Sinclaire and Daphne Williams Fox.
The typed manuscript of the poem was donated to the University last year by Lund, a retired Virginia professor and author of a highly popular series of Route 66 novels, and his brother Carl, a retired physicist who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Williams had written the poem in 1921 for Ethel Woodruff Macy, the Lunds’ grandmother who was a close personal friend of Williams and also a fellow poet.
The little girl in the poem is Ethel’s daughter, Marian, whom Williams, a family physician in East Rutherford, N.J., as well as an internationally renowned poet, had diagnosed as dying of leukemia. The diagnosis proved incorrect, however, and Marian lived until 2002, just short of her 92nd birthday. Much of her life was spent in Rolla, Mo., as the wife of a professor at the Missouri School of Mines.
Lund remembers the framed manuscript of “About a Little Girl” hanging on a hallway wall in his boyhood home in Rolla, but he did not recognize the significance of the document until he studied Williams’ poetry in an English class at Washington University, Hamblin said.
The Lunds made their decision to donate the poem to Southeast following a visit to the University’s Rare Book Room, where they admired the Louis Daniel Brodsky Collection of William Faulkner materials housed there, Hamblin said.
Williams, who lived from 1883 to 1963, played an important role in the early 20th-century modernist movement in literature. His major work, Paterson, is an epic treatment of the history, people, and personality of Paterson, N.J. His most frequently anthologized poem is “The Red Wheelbarrow.”
Ethel Woodruff Macy was also an accomplished poet, with her poems appearing in Poetry and other leading periodicals of her day. Lund and Hamblin believe the publication of this book, in addition to providing new information about Williams’ life and career, also will revive interest in Macy’s poetry.
The book is available to the public for purchase at http://www6.semo.edu/universitypress.