Focus on Phyllis

3 A.M.,” writes Marjorie Agosín in her beautiful Introduction to Phyllis Hotch’s newest collection of poetry, “is a book that speaks of the altered mind, due to aging and disease, as well as a book that celebrates the sacredness of being alive, of reflecting about solitude and beauty, landscape and renewal.” In it, “The poet invites us to accompany her on a most dangerous journey, the one of life itself and its infinite and finite possibilities.”

cover of Phyllis's book 3 AM

Since the book’s publication last year by 3: A Taos Press, Phyllis, now 86, has been widely celebrated in her adoptive home of Taos in print and in person – giving readings at various prominent venues, such as SOMOS (the Society of the Muse of the Southwest) and the TJC (Taos Jewish Center). Phyllis has been called “a leading light in the community.” In short, she’s a star.

Phyllis and her husband Sy, who passed away earlier this year, came to Taos in 1989 to retire, after having lived, worked, and raised their three children in Massachusetts. Phyllis had taught high school English there for 21 years, so she was keen to become involved in Taos’s lively literary community upon her arrival. When she and Sy learned about the then-new nonprofit SOMOS, they joined the board; and Phyllis served as the organization’s president for the next 15 years.

Among the SOMOS programs that Phyllis helped initiate is the Youth Mentorship Program that has lasted for over 20 years.

I sat down with Phyllis on a mild afternoon not so long ago at her home in El Prado, overlooking a lush valley and the majestic Taos Mountain, to talk about her newest book and what keeps her going strong.

“I love this community,” she said. “The people are immensely creative, open-hearted, and nonjudgmental. So at this stage of my life, especially, I want to be a good role model. I want to be useful and be available to younger people. I want to give back.”

Phyllis wrote many of the poems in 3 A.M. during the years Sy was declining from Alzheimer’s disease. This one, “Decline,” though short, is filled with love and tinged with sorrow:

Less often he’s witty and funny

He likes hugs and some nurses and some

aides hug him and some play

along when he’s playful

But he always says, I love you so much

            Last week he said, Will we ever sleep together again?

 Writing 3 A.M., she said, has been her lifeline through the tumultuous waters of old age, helping her to find the beauty, comedy, and patience that accompany illness and loss.

Here is another poignant poem from the book:


Who does an old man sing to

when he wants to sing? The baritone that used to boom

now croaks

if he could he would

sing with the radio, smile

remembering when he changed

his shirt, combed his hair,

waited near the door.


Does he remember the bridge silver

white in the moonlight and no

cars passing while we sang

chorus after chorus and then again?


Now he sings to the cat on his lap

who settles and resettles as he

moves his knees

to the beat

nods his head

first up and down to the drum

then side to side –

the impossibility of years.




3 thoughts on “Focus on Phyllis”

  1. What a lovely and well deserved and beautifully written article about Phyllis and about 3 A.M. The book and her poetry are both beautiful. Phyllis is indeed a role model and an inspiration to all of us.

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