Phyllis Hoge was born on November 15, 1926 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, one of three daughters of Philip Barlow Hoge and Dorothy Morgan Anderson. She grew up with her sisters, Eleanor and Langley, in New Jersey and Rhode Island. Her love of words and poetry started early in life, fortified by her mother’s reading poetry aloud to her and then “putting the right books into my hands while I was still very young” and taking her to poetry readings. Phyllis was also fortunate that her early schooling provided more food for her poetic appetite.
Although her Vitae includes a long list of academic accomplishments, starting with her Bachelors from Connecticut College, Masters from Duke University and PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Phyllis declared that “nobody could ever mistake me for a scholar. My degrees were a union card. From the time I could push a pencil and make marks on a page I knew I needed to write and talk about poems. The only way I could think of to do that was to teach at a University. So I got ready.”
While working on her PhD in Madison, Wisconsin, she also brought her four children into the world with husband John Rose. Phyllis and the children moved to Hawai’i in 1963 where she spent the major part of her professional career as an English professor at the University of Hawai’i. Her passion for nurturing poets and appreciation of poetry gave birth to projects in Hawai’i such as “The Only Established Permanent Floating Poetry Game in Honolulu” and the nation’s first poetry in the schools program, Haku Mele o Hawai’i. Phyllis’ first book of poetry Artichoke and Other Poems, was published in 1966, followed by seven more volumes of poetry and a memoir about her time in a New Mexico ghost town.
Aside from her life of writing and teaching, Phyllis dedicated herself to mothering, friendships and caring for her home. She loved art and things of beauty. She said that “worship stands at the center of my life” as a lifelong church-goer, first in the Episcopal Church, then as a Quaker. She was introduced to Quakers through a cousin in Wisconsin but did not become a member until joining Honolulu Friends Meeting in 1969. As her spiritual life changed, so did her poetry, her inspiration coming less from outer events and words of others, and more from “the truth revealed in silence” and the “inward listening for light.”
Retiring to New Mexico in 1984, Phyllis sought a contrast from her life in Hawai’i, in environment, culture, and experience. Her adventurous nature embraced the expansion of sky and opportunity for connection that the relative isolation of an island in the middle of the ocean could not always offer. In Albuquerque, she moved into her beloved little house that she personally painted yellow and which inspired her last book, Hello House (2012). Her writing and travels continued, including a year in China that inspired another volume, Letters from Jian Hui and other poems (2001).
After transferring her membership to Albuquerque Monthly Meeting in 1984, Phyllis served Albuquerque, New Mexico Regional and Intermountain Yearly Meetings through many committee roles and her gift of writing. There was little that could keep her from Monthly Meeting for Business--which she affectionately referred to as “the Holy Day of Obligation”--because, as she liked to quote another Friend: “if I don’t (go), they usually end up doing some darn thing or other.”
Phyllis spoke often in Meeting for Worship, weaving strands of beloved poetry, literary allusion and honest reflection on the experiences of her life. Her keen observation and sense of humor sparkled in her vocal ministry and in her conversation. Belonging and connection, which she found in Meeting, were integral to her sense of well-being but also for her creative process as a writer. “I’m a writer and this is my spiritual center.” Phyllis hoped that “poets remember me as a Quaker and Quakers remember me as a poet.”
With a fierce commitment to the precise use of language, and a major appetite for hard work, Phyllis was quick to laugh, to recite Yeats, Whitman and more, to sing the old tunes, to listen, and to love.
“Whatever my poems mean in particular, they begin and end as celebrations of the world entrusted to me by my life. Poetry--my own and that of others--helps me to understand how things are for me and to live more peaceably with what I have. It is my common prayer.”
Phyllis balanced independence with sincere interest in other people and she valued many profound connections with family and friends. In the last decade of her life she reunited with a friend from her youth named Robert Sommerfeld, with whom she shared loving companionship until his death about a year before her own. She is survived by her daughter Kate Roseguo, her sons John Rose and, Willie Rose. Her son Mead Rose passed away earlier in 2018.