Michael and Carl Lund grew up in a house with a priceless document on a hall wall: an unpublished poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet William Carlos Williams.
The poem, “About a Little Girl,” is slightly yellowed and is in the same frame that their mother put it in decades ago. Her sons wanted to make it available to the world after her death, but in a safe place.
They apparently have found that place at Southeast Missouri State University. Yesterday, Michael Lund was to officially donate the 38-line, typewritten poem and explain its origins.
“I didn’t want to just hand it to someone,” Michael Lund said.
The poem, which has a misspelling in the word “balloon,” will be published for the first time by the university. Its contents are not being released until then.
Mr. Williams wrote “About a Little Girl” in 1921 after diagnosing Michael and Carl Lund’s mother with leukemia when she was 11. Along with his literary career, Mr. Williams had a medical practice in Rutherford, N.J.
Michael Lund said Mr. Williams was a friend of his mother’s family, and thought after reviewing medical tests that she was likely to die. The poem contrasts a happy, outgoing “angel” of a child with the death he believed would overtake her.
As it turned out, Mr. Williams’ diagnosis was wrong and the child, Marian Macy, lived until 2002 — two weeks short of 92. The poem, which Mr. Williams signed with his initials, WCW, was passed from Marian’s mother to Marian, then to her two sons.
Robert Hamblin, director of Southeast Missouri’s Center for Faulkner Studies, said he doesn’t know why Mr. Williams didn’t publish the poem.
“To find it at this late date,” he said, “is wonderful.”
As a young woman, Marian Macy moved from New Jersey to Missouri, married and raised a family in Rolla. She finally moved to Virginia in 1998.
Because his mother had spent more than half of her life in Missouri, her sons said it seemed fitting for the poem to stay in the state.
Mr. Williams, who lived from 1883 to 1963, wrote short stories, plays, novels, essays as well as poems at night and on weekends. He was part of the early modernist movement in the U.S.
His epic series of poems, “Paterson,” is an account of the history, people and personality of Paterson, N.J. His most anthologized poem is “The Red Wheelbarrow.”
Michael Lund, who became an English professor and author, never made much of his family’s poem while growing up in Rolla in the 1950s. But when he became an English major at Washington University in St. Louis, “I picked up the importance of it.”
Michael Lund, who teaches at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., is the author of seven novels about life in America’s heartland and is an expert on British and American serial fiction. Carl Lund is a retired physicist in Albuquerque, N.M.