We Play Here | Granta

  • Published: 03/08/2023
  • ISBN: 9781915051066
  • Granta Books
  • 112 pages

We Play Here

Dawn Watson

We Play Here is a collection of four poem-stories, taking place in an underdeveloped area of Protestant North Belfast in the summer of 1988, against a background of political turbulence during the Troubles. Written from the perspectives of four female friends in the months between finishing primary school and starting high school, the girls inhabit an eerie, elemental landscape of normalised violence, poverty and neglect.

This is a lyrical and graceful evocation of working-class girlhood that rings of Elena Ferrante’s studies of female friendships in the Neapolitan novels, Didier Eribon’s Returning to Reims, and Annie Ernaux’s The Years. It is a radical approach to girlhood and girl-friendships, the kind of skewered space before an imposition of gender, or before the trappings of gender make themselves strongly known. Innocence is tinged here with a kind of hidden menace.

An extraordinary, enviably great debut. Watson has that rare ability to capture the ever-present strangeness of childhood and to use that to let us into a specific history with intellectual and imaginative generosity. There is taut, lyrical focus on every page, but overall, a game-changing narrative long poem you'll want to keep close.

Luke Kennard

A unique new voice in poetry who reminds us that what some people call history, others might call memory; and what some might deem a city, others might insist is actually the individual topography of their childhood

Andrew McMillan

Dawn Watson gives us a closely-mapped, child's-eye-view of a North Belfast community in the mid-1980s. Watson's sequences, in the voices of four 12-year-old girls, record this broken world innocently, movingly and often humorously - but, more than this, through their attention to beauty and wonder, they map these girls' inner lives, where imagination and poetry itself survive.

Leontia Flynn

The Author

Dawn Watson is a writer from Belfast. Her poetry pamphlet The Stack of Owls is Getting Higher (2019) is published with The Emma Press. She currently teaches at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University, where she is completing her PhD. Her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and has appeared in literary journals including Granta, The Manchester Review, The Moth, and The Stinging Fly. She was selected as one of the 2018 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series poets, is a former national tabloid sub editor of 15 years and lives in Belfast.

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Dawn Watson on Granta.com

Poetry | Granta 158

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Dawn Watson

‘Black was thrown / in all directions.’