Commissioned by Young Artists Trust (YCAT). First performed by Emily Beynon (fl) and Elizabeth Burley (pf), Malvern Festival, 1996.
I first heard Words for my Daughter by Janet Paisley at a reading on National Poetry Day 1995. I had my nine-day-old daughter with me and it made a profound impression. Shortly afterwards I wrote the flute and piano piece, which is in effect a free setting of the poem. It was commissioned by Young Concert Artsts Trust for Catherine Beynon and Elizabeth Burley. Words for my Daughter Come, the cap of birth is dry, my labouring is done, your cry has split the world's roof. Be comforted, the womb returns to wrap around you.
Sweet darkness, velvet-blood from which you came, as night will cup you again, again move you outward into light; a brilliance to be danced in is life. Your staggering steps will grow to trust this earth; it meets both sure and unsure feet. That shifting pain will shape the edges that define you. Move through yourself. See, the fugure is with child and needs your labouring. Be done with pasts, walk away.
I'll watch, I'll guard your back, blinded by my own time. Go forward from the shadows mothers cast
As old women shrink, rich fruit seed into the garden I have been. Now you. So live,
we have both shed our tears for miracles, for coming new.
In birth-sleep heavy at my breast, love-child, first comes the dream and then the making true.
Janet Paisley Reproduced with permission of Chapman Publishing.