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8 March 2024

Ariel (Little Mami Wata) by Princess Arinola Adegbite

Wasafiri is proud to publish the 2023 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize shortlisted pieces. These poems, essays, and short stories detail a range of emotions and experiences, produced by promising new writers from all over the globe. In this poem, Princess Arinola Adegbite uses aquatic imagery to dip into questions of dual identity and the struggle for authenticity.

The 2024 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize is open until 1 July 2024. Read the full guidelines and submit your work here.


Before you swam inside her amniotic sac

your mother witnessed her cousin sink

in the local river – tells you to never wade in water

or else they’ll steal you. Secretly, you know

you are a siren. Men from foreign islands come

to watch your breaststroke on Tuesdays,

swimming class, chlorine competence.

Learning how to resist a current that kills.

Waves of an octave, the C7 hit to perfect pitch.

Blue Ariel, in the style of new jazz & negro spiritual,

songs to make adults dream clear skies again, oceans.

Mother tells you to look both ways when crossing the road,

don’t ride a bicycle and never dive.

Independence is a death sentence, suicide.

You wear blue agate to soothe your throat chakra,

a turquoise painted pool, a portal into bliss.

Students jump into horizons, armed with life jackets,

at home you swipe your Phone, open the chirping app,

wince at AI art, how Ariel is photoshopped blonde

beside Jamaican Sebastian. In the bathtub you ask,

How do I sing with a plagiarised voice?

while someone copyrights your song.


Feature image by mkurtbas from Getty Images Signature via Canva.com.

The 2024 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize is open for submissions until 1 July 2024. Submit here.

Princess Arinola Adegbite is a poet, performance artist, Author of Soft Tortures, Factory International, Youth Music, and MOBO Help Musicians funded musician and filmmaker from Manchester. Bitez is also a member of Young Identity and The Writing Squad.
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