Sheridan poet A. Rose Hill was appointed Wyoming’s seventh Poet Laureate by Governor Matt Mead on July 9, 2015. Her first duty was to read her poem “Song of Wyoming,” honoring Wyoming’s 125th anniversary of statehood. The program on the Capitol steps included Governor Mead, three former governors, and Wyoming’s two senators.
Rose has never published her own collection of poems, but her work has appeared in such publications as Leaning into the Wind and Woven on the Wind. She’s a great-grandmother, bookkeeper, housewife, historian, and former maid.
I first met Rose over 10 years ago when she called to let me know that an essay I sent to a contest sponsored by Range Writers won second place. She invited me to join the group which I did. We developed a friendship, traveling to workshops and conferences, spending many nights in motel rooms, sometimes in the same bed. She accompanied me to events where I promoted my books and supported my writing in other ways. Through the years, I got to know her and her poetry.
Rose was born on a farm near Cainsville, Missouri, September 7, 1931, and came to Sheridan with her mother and three sisters in the spring of 1947 several years after her father died. She worked as a maid at the historic Trail’s End mansion from 1947 to 1949 and graduated from Sheridan High School in 1949. She was a telephone operator, clerk, and teller for Mountain Bell from 1951 to 1959. Rose began her writing career for the Ocksheperida, Sheridan High School’s newspaper, and later edited a newsletter at Sheridan College. She earned an AA degree in accounting after her husband Gail started Ace Radiator which is now her son’s business. She has kept books for the business since it began in 1959.
She met Gail in the fall of 1948, and they married on September 4, 1949, three days before she turned eighteen. They adopted two boys and a girl. Their younger son died in 2001 of cancer. Gail died on Christmas Day, 2013. Rose has six grandchildren and two great grandchildren with a third on the way. She enjoys reading, singing in a church choir, taking care of her youngest granddaughter, spending time with family, and keeping a journal.
Wanting readers to see what she sees and feel what she feels, Rose puts poetic ideas in understandable form, using as few words as necessary without being obscure. She doesn’t usually write rhymed, metered poetry because she finds it too restricting.
My favorite poem of hers is “Grandma Tol’ Me.” When I asked her, she said, “My grandmother did indeed inspire that poem. She had a way of chuckling when things were a little tense. I asked her once how she could smile in the face of difficulties. She told me, “If I weren’t smiling, I’d be crying.”
Rose says she was utterly astonished upon receiving a phone call from the Governor inviting her to become Wyoming’s next Poet Laureate. During her term, sponsored in part by the Wyoming Arts Council, she wants to celebrate the arts and make the public aware of all Wyoming artists, encourage the preservation of Wyoming’s history and the improvement of writing education in schools, make the arts more economically possible for artists including all writers, and encourage innovation in all of Wyoming’s arts community. To move forward with her agenda, she plans to meet with as many of Wyoming’s writing groups as possible and visit classrooms in schools around the state.
Rose is a member of Wyoming Writers, WyoPoets, Sheridan’s Range Writers, and Third Thursday Poets, all groups to which I belong. To learn more and read “Grandma Tol’ Me,” visit http://www.wyopoets.org/featured-members/a-rose .