Forever Hurts

Anna-Karin about Forever Hurts:

The “reimagined secular requiem” – Comfort and loss inspired by nature – that was the requirement for this composition.


Choral music generally needs a text. That implies a lot of research, or at least thinking, before you can start working on the music. The text is most often the starting point. 


I compose for various kinds of ensembles, but composing songs or choral music is special.  The chosen poem or text makes me write music I would never have done without that specific text.


So I searched for texts and by chance the poem “Forever” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar appeared. I didn’t know anything about him, but I know NOW that he is quiet well-known in the US.  


I very much liked that little poem. It spoke to me!  But he did not search for comfort in nature. My thoughts turned to my compatriot poet, Karin Boye, and her (at least in Sweden) very well-known poem, “Yes, it surely hurts when buds are bursting” (Ja visst gör det ont när knoppar brister).


For me, the two poems talks about the same thing, but in very different ways.  I had been so inspired by Dunbar’s poem… but the reference to nature I had found in Boye – so I decided to use them both.


Boye and Dunbar both had very short lives, both dying young.  Putting together, their lives would have covered a normal life span. Dunbar died only a few years after Boye was born, when she was about 5-6 years old. 


Their combined life span was 1872-1941.  Different lives, in different parts of the world, in different cultures, of different gender and colour, unaware of each other’s existence. Yet they wrote poems on the same subject, about suffering, life, death, and the search for comfort.


We are not so different from each other, after all.


I decided to let them talk to each other  across time and space.



Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)


Karin Boye  (1900-1941)

Yes,it surely hurts when buds are bursting

I had not known before

    Forever was so long a word.

The slow stroke of the clock of time

    I had not heard.

Yes, it surely hurts when buds are bursting

Why else would springtime falter?

Why would all our heat of longing

be caught in pale and bitter cold?

Buds encased all through the winter –

What’s new that makes them strain and split?

Yes, it surely hurts when buds are bursting,

hurts in what grows

          and in what shields.

‘Tis hard to learn so late;
    It seems no sad heart really learns,

but hopes and trusts and doubts and fears,

    and bleeds and burns.

Yes, it’s surely hard when drops are falling,

frightened shaking, heavy hanging,

cling to branches, swelling, sliding –

holding on while weighing down.

Hard to fear, divided, doubting,

hard to feel the depth that calls,

and yet remain and merely tremble –

hard to stay

          and hard to fall.

The night is not all dark,
    nor is the day all it seems,

but each may bring me this relief—

    my dreams and dreams.

Then, when nothing helps and all seems lost,

the tree buds burst as if rejoicing.

Then, when fear holds on no more

sparkling drops from branches fall

I had not known before
    that Never was so sad a word,

so wrap me in forgetfulness—

forgetful that they feared the new,

forgetful that they feared the journey –

    I have not heard.

feel one second safe and sound,

rest in trust

          which creates this world.

Polyphonos 2018


Ily Matthew Maniano (Young composer winner)

Sarah Rimkus (National composer winner)

Anna-Karin Klockar (International composer winner)