Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August Strindberg, August Days

The books in the center of this photo were the first three I chose, or which chose me, during our recent visit to Powell’s. They were published in 1913.

They were in the Swedish area of the foreign language section. The author, August Strindberg, was born in Sweden in 1849. My great-grandfather, Lars August Claus, was born in Sweden that same year. My great-grandmother, Amanda, was born there ten years later. They settled in Illinois, and their first son, my grandfather Carl August, was born in Woodhull in 1878, not far from where Carl Sandburg was born earlier that same year. My aunt insisted we were related to the Sandburgs, but that appears to have been wishful thinking.

In any case, after Lars moved the family West in 1888 to Kingsburg, California, he started the band that played in the city park on summer Sunday afternoons. He was a trumpet player. Here are Lars and Amanda in their later years in front of their house on the farm.

As you can see, Lars also had his jolly side, and he and Amanda were quite comfortable with each other and their life together sweating and farming and growing peaches. Lars died in 1920, two years before my mother was born. Amanda lived on until 1946.

I do wish the framed pictures looked better, but I just snapped them off the wall in poor light.

Here are the cover, title page, and two random pages of one of the Strindberg volumes. I don’t read Swedish. But when I saw these books and looked inside, I knew I had to bring them home.

And since it is August, and since in this entry Augusts abound, I will close with a poem from Songs and Letters which can also be found in my book, The Painting ofYou. It’s called “August Days,” and it goes like this:

August days
are a recipe for longing:
they bring scented dust
and dew, the first
nocturnal kiss
upon veined leaves
that are beginning
to resemble
my mother’s hands.

Though much
of summer lies ahead,
autumn is creeping in,
feigning patience
with vineyard rows,
gently coaxing
the fruiting bough,

Soft the yellows,
purples, reds,
soft the folds upon
her unmade bed,
soft the light
on her faded gown,

My mother holds
them in her hands,
until they wither
and die upon
the ground,

Then wonders
where August days
have gone, and forgets
the ones she’s found.


Ed Baker said...


this is "good 'stuff'" Bill

the rhythm of a right-now sonnetteer with his ear in
the The Wyatt the Elder era...

loads of Swinburn's soundings all

madeyourown I dropped in at a good moment

let us say an August Moment ? cheers

William Michaelian said...

Hello, Ed. I appreciate it. Yes, let us say August. And always a pleasure.

Paul L. Martin said...

What I am continually impressed by with old books is their beauty. It seems publishers presented books as works of art visually as well as literally. I feel like books published today are almost designed to be eventually thrown away with their cheap paper and bindings. Your Stringberg volumes were built to last. Can't say the same for more recent editions of his work.

William Michaelian said...

No, and I’m sure neither of us is surprised. It’s all a reflection of our current “culture,” for lack of a better word — a culture in which a name means nothing and no one is responsible. We have old things in the house, books among them, that have stood the test of time, still sturdy and useful and beautiful, while recent purchases evaporate in our hands. There are exceptions, of course, and there are people who still care. But the economics involved in doing things as they should be done always rears its ugly head. But ultimately I think a book is beautiful in any age, even if physically it won’t last, because it still presents its message and carries it forward. Maybe not as far, but maybe far enough for the right person to find it, which is what matters.

Two Tigers said...

William, I love this poem, it is exactly how August feels to me, that there are still many weeks of summer left (Lord knows we can have summer heat in late September!) but there is already a feeling of fleetingness and loss - and the urgency that goes with it, a kind of pressure to enjoy, enjoy while you can...

And the photos of your family are wonderful, wonderful that you share them and even moreso that these images surround you in your home. An august lineage indeed!

Enjoy the weekend!

William Michaelian said...

I certainly will, Gabriella. Thank you. For as long as I can remember, dating back to my childhood days on the farm, something happens inside me every August, early in the month. I suspect my senses know far in advance what my mind will later digest. And so it goes through the seasons, the body registering, obeying, rejoicing in the cycle of change.