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Maria Eliza Hamilton Abegunde

Years: 2000, 2001, 2004


Maria E. Hamilton Abegunde, Ph.D., is a Memory Keeper, ancestral priest in the Yoruba Orisa tradition, healing facilitator, doula, Civic Reflection Dialogue trainer, and Powerful Conversations on Race facilitator. Her research and creative works are grounded in contemplative practices and respectfully approach the Earth and human bodies as sites of memory, and always with the understanding that memory never dies, is subversive, and can be recovered to transform and heal transgenerational trauma and pain. Specific areas of interest include the Middle Passage, Brazil, and South Sudan (Juba).

Her writings/performances have been published in the journals If My Body Could Talk (Mouth): Black Women’s Digital Puzzle Project, North Meridian Review, the Massachusetts Review, Obsidian, Tupelo Quarterly, FIRE!!! (ASALH), the Kenyon Review, COGzine, and nocturnes; in the books The Eternal Year of African People, Ashe: Ritual Poetics in African Diasporic Expressivity, Theorizing Folklore from the Margins: Critical and Ethical Approaches, Trigger Warnings, Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue, Best African American Fiction, and Let Spirit Speak!; and in the exhibitions Be/Coming, Keeper of My Mothers’ Dreams, and Sister Song. Her poems have been anthologized in Gathering Ground, Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century, Knowing Stones:  Poems of Exotic Places, I Feel A Little Jumpy Around You, and Catch the Fire. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks Wishful Thinking and Still Breathing, and the collection What Is Now Unanswerable.

Abegunde is the ritualist and commissioned poet for the Ancestral Masquerade Series and the Sister Song exhibitions. She is a Sacatar, Ragdale, and NEH summer fellow, and participated in the inaugural Poets and Scholars Writing Retreat, hosted by the Rutgers University Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice. She is a faculty member in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, with affiliations in Gender Studies, the African Studies Program, and the Center for Research on Race & Ethnicity in Society. Additional information about her work, including interviews and performances, can be found HERE.



Learning to Eat the Dead: Juba (2016)

“Bit by bit we eat the head of the rat.” (Yoruba saying)

@2019 Maria Hamilton Abegunde

The Massachusetts Review (Winter 2019, MR60 Issue)

To find a missing friend, follow the rot.


You find her



Whatever they have become

Crouch over the body like an old woman.

Touch the body gently.

Remove the bullets with love.

Use them:

Flick out maggots

Separate bloated flesh

From decayed.

Seek no sympathy from those who gawk at your grief.

One day someone will care enough

To consume you.

Eat like a vulture.

You are not human.

Nor is anyone you’ve ever loved.