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From left to right: Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, Tara Trudell, and Max Early read their poetry in the “Chapel”

It was the kind of morning best spent in a worn chair next to a lamp reading a good book. Rain pelted at the roof. Its percussive rhythms accompanied the lulling language of Fray Angélico Chávez who wrote: “The angel had simply vanished, slipped out of his hand the way sparrows or trout usually do, only much more swiftly.”

Huddled around a broad table, fingers warmed by mugs of coffee and tea, we were in the Reception Center at the School for Advanced Research (SAR) listening to the first three short stories in Fray Angélico Chávez’s New Mexico Triptych. Published in 1940, the beloved Franciscan padre born in Wagon Mound, NM created his own illustrations. In 1938 and 1939, he read his poetry aloud at the White Sisters’ “Chapel.”

On May 19, 2023, in honor of the second annual Santa Fe International Literary Festival, twenty-four tour guests learned about the literary connections at SAR as an organization, a collection, and a place. Starting in the Reception Center, we opened umbrellas to step outside.

“What we’re told as children is that people, when they walk on the land, leave their sweat and leave their breath wherever they go. So that wherever we walk, the place, that particular spot on the earth never forgets us, and when we go back to those places, we know that the people who have lived there are in some ways still there, and that we can actually partake of their breath and of their spirit.”
(Rina Swentzell, Surviving Columbus: the Story of the Pueblo People, 1992)

Artist, architect, and scholar from Santa Clara Pueblo, Rina Swentzell was a Lamon Fellow at SAR in 1995-1996. While at SAR, she collaborated with her brother, Tito Naranjo, and sister, Tessie Naranjo, in publications and public presentations.

Whether snow-topped or green or golden or covered in cloud, it is an honor to stand in that open space between the Reception Center and the Scholar Residences facing the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, remembering the breath of those before us. What settlements were here? What fires built? What stories told? What deaths? What births? Tewa, Southern Tano, Keres, Diné, Apache all passing through this place where we stand.

Source: Red Earth: Poems of New Mexico by Alice Corbin Henderson. Published in Chicago by R.F. Seymour in 1920.

One of those who stood here was Alice Corbin Henderson, who came to Santa Fe in 1916 to die.

A founding editor of Poetry Magazine in Chicago, she influenced the careers of Carl Sandburg and Ezra Pound among others. When she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, she came to Sunmount Sanitorium with little hope.

When her husband, artist, woodworker, and soon-to-be architect William Penhallow Henderson, joined her in Santa Fe, two tough-as-nails women asked him to design adobe buildings, the first swimming pool in Santa Fe, a “mirador” overlook, stone terraces for vegetable and flower gardens, and the “Chapel” modeled after Laguna Pueblo Mission. All were completed by 1927 when their neighbor, artist Gustave Baumann, made a map of “El Delirio” full of delightful stories.

For the two enterprising women, Amelia Elizabeth and her younger sister Martha White, their home was very much a public space.

Martha loved to act and wrote plays that were performed on the grounds. Often Jane Baumann, the woodcut printmaker’s wife and a trained vocalist, had the leading role. Cast in the plays were such notables as Dorothy Stewart, Witter Bynner, Will Shuster, Lenora Curtin, John Gaw Meem, Jack Lambert, and even John Sloan got talked into a cameo role now and then.

In 1933, Gus and Jane Baumann gave a public puppet show in the White Sisters’ Chapel. And in 1952, the Corelli Players, a local theatre group, performed in the Chapel as a fundraiser for the Garcia Street Boys and Girls Club.

When she didn’t die after all, Alice Corbin Henderson fostered a group of writers and founded the Poet’s Roundup in 1928. “The idea of the Poet’s Roundup,” she said in a Santa Fe New Mexican article ten years later, “is like that of chamber music. The poem exists for a few moments in air, to be forgotten or remembered – a momentary fellowship of poets and audience.”

Each year, poets came out of the shoot, rodeo-style, to read their latest efforts, hoping not to fall off, but if they did – oh well – someone else was coming out next!

Initially, the Poet’s Roundup happened entirely outdoors in the gardens of various homes. It was Witter Bynner who got the blame for bringing rain to the annual event when he read a poem about a rain dance at Cochiti. One of few large public indoor spaces in Santa Fe at the time, Amelia Elizabeth White agreed to open up her Chapel for the event in 1938 and 1939. Each year, over 200 people attended.

Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Thornton Wilder announced the poets in 1938. And in 1939, they decided to try using a microphone, which met with some resistance from the poets.

Prolific writer and neighbor Witter Bynner, a classmate of Robert Frost, lived within walking distance of the White Sisters, across the street from Gustave and Jane Baumann and just up the road from Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Oliver LaFarge. Bynner and LaFarge often collaborated, co-editing various publications, including one in honor of Alice Corbin Henderson after she passed away in 1949. “In This Desert Land” was one of the poems Witter Bynner read in the courtyard in front of the Chapel at SAR in 1939.

Probably some Poet’s Roundup attendees took refuge at the next stop on our tour: the covered “Mirador.” There wasn’t a building behind it back then. The Billiard House was added in the 1940s to give returning WWII soldiers a place to hang out while hosted by Amelia Elizabeth White.

We entered the Billiard House to find a large oil painting of Martha White dressed as a Greek warrior queen. Quite the dramatic senior portrait at Bryn Mawr!

Lining the Billiard House walls are photographs of SAR’s Resident Scholars from the start of the program in 1973 to the present. You can see 2021 National Book Award Winner Tiya Miles (All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake). There’s a younger photograph of SAR President Michael F. Brown back when he was writing about the Awajún people of Amazonian Peru. And just a few scholars down the row, there’s N. Scott Momaday sitting at a typewriter.

N. Scott Momaday was a Lamon Fellow at SAR in 1989-1990. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his novel House Made of Dawn, so we read from the book and listened to a few of his poems near his scholar photograph.

Continuing to follow the loop of the campus, we stopped at the gazebo John Gaw Meem designed in memory of Martha White and we read a dog poem written by polymath Will Shuster near the place where the White Sisters’ prize-winning hounds and other beloved animals were buried.

At the Indian Arts Research Center (IARC), we remembered that the collection began thanks to a writer. War correspondent Elizabeth Shepley Sargeant was advised by her friend, Willa Cather, to give Santa Fe a try, so she did. It was in her living room that a broken Zuni pot became the first part of a collection that now includes over 12,000 pieces of pottery, basketry, and other items.

We listened to Elizabeth Shepley Sargeant’s vivid prose from an article she wrote in 1921 after a visit to San Felipe Pueblo:

“On this first day of spring and May, the apple trees are in bloom over orchard walls, and the cottonwoods along the river have feathered into shapes like broad candle flames; gold pale in the middle, pinkish red on the edges. One must have known the raw and barren winter to gauge the miracle of such flames in the desert; the madness of the scent of fruit blossoms; the strange vibration of this long double ribbon of Indian dancers, advancing in the hot sun of noon.”

“The earth is a resonant skin stretched taut over eternity. The air is a hot cloud full of blurring motes that mock the sun. Water, water, where is water? Pine boughs shaking, black hair waving, dull drums booming, voices crying, silver and wampum and turquoise rattling, long white banner fluttering its eagle feathers, dipping, dipping, its pollen of parrot feathers over each dancer in turn.”

I wonder what she would think about what the collection has become today: the collection reviews, the Guidelines for Collaboration, and Grounded in Clay: SAR’s first traveling exhibition preparing to go to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

Sixty community curators, most artists from local pueblos and villages, selected pieces that meant something to them. Stories of family, survival, and the creative spirit are shared in the Grounded in Clay exhibition, sometimes in poetry. We listened to Rose B. Simpson’s vibrant poem about a Santa Clara water jar.

Our tour continued past the home of the SAR Press, which carries on the tradition of publishing the work of scholars and artists since 1908, and on to SAR’s Library with literature from the Southwest on display, and concluded at the Seminar House where mystery writer Agatha Christie stayed in 1966 when her husband archaeologist Max Mallowan spoke in Santa Fe.

From left to right: Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, Tara Trudell, and Max Early

Between the morning and afternoon Literary Tours of the campus, three local poets read their works inside the historic “Chapel” where guests listened from round tables while eating lunch. Rich with sound and story, Santa Fe Poet Laureate Darryl Lorenzo Wellington read from his upcoming book Legible Walls, which features photographs of murals accompanied by poems. Tara Trudell (Santee Dakota/Rarámuri/Xicana) read from her poems of empowerment and survival. Laguna Pueblo poet Max Early treated listeners to poems of rain and family and frogs croaking their chance, sharing some words in the Keres language. He read “Convergence of Clay,” a poem about his relationship with a pot over time that was inspired by his participation as a community curator in the Grounded in Clay exhibition.

Max Early was one of eight Indigenous Writers in Residence at SAR from 2011 to 2018. Funded by the Lannan Foundation, the fellows were:

2011 – Santee Frazier (Cherokee)
2012 – Janice Gould (Concow Maidu)
2013 – Casandra Lopez (Cahuilla, Luiseño, Tongva, Chicana)
2014 – Joan Naviyuk Kane (Inupiaq)
2015 – Max Early (Laguna Pueblo)
2016 – Kelli Jo Ford (Cherokee)
2017 – Gordon Lee Johnson (Cahuilla/Cupeño)
2018 – Thomas Parrie (Choctow-Apache Tribe of Ebarb)

In addition to hosting writers at events and for residencies, SAR was the subject of articles by notable wordsmiths.

When she was twenty-four, novelist Anne Hillerman skillfully navigated the complicated terrain of what was then known as the School of American Research (SAR) in a concise article for the Santa Fe New Mexican. It was 1973 and Amelia Elizabeth White had just passed away, leaving the campus to SAR. “We are delighted, simply delighted with the place,” she quotes then President Douglas Schwartz as saying. “Schwartz pinpointed the school’s function as ‘Concentrating on the need man has to learn from the past, from his own history.’”

Standing before the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, so many were here before us. So much writing, both academic and creative and even sometimes both, was read and written in this place where we now breathe.

And so much is yet to come.


Brown, Michael F. and Fernandez, Eduardo. War Shadows. University of California Press: 1993.

Bynner, Witter. Selected Poems. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 1977.

Bynner, Witter and LaFarge, Oliver. “Alice Corbin: An Appreciation.” New Mexico Quarterly 19,  1 (1949).

Chávez, Fray Angélico. New Mexico Triptych. St. Anthony Guild Press: 1940.

Corbin Henderson, Alice. Red Earth: Poems of New Mexico. Chicago: R.F. Seymour: 1920.

Dispenza, Joseph and Turner, Louise. Will Shuster: A Santa Fe Legend. Museum of New Mexico Press: 1989.

Hillerman, Anne. “School of American Research to hold open house at spacious new headquarters.” Santa Fe New Mexican. May 7, 1973.

LaFarge, Oliver. Laughing Boy. Houghton Mifflin Company: 1929.

Miles, Tiya. All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake. Random House: 2021.

Momaday, N. Scott. House Made of Dawn. HarperCollins: 1966.

Momaday, N. Scott. In the Bear’s House. St. Martin’s Press: 1999.

Naranjo, Tito. “Seeking Life.” from Talking with the Clay by Stephen Trimble. SAR Press: 1987.

“Poets’ Roundup Program of Rich Literary Value Which 200 Guests Attend at Chapel.” Santa Fe New Mexican. August 8, 1938.

Pueblo Pottery Collective. Poon, Elysia. Kinsel, Rick. Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery. Merrell Publishers Ltd: 2022.

Sargeant, Elizabeth Shepley. “Don’t Scrap Pueblo Civilization.” Santa Fe New Mexican. April 22, 1921.

Swentzell, Rina. “An Understated Sacredness.” Mass: Journal of the School of Architecture and Planning. University of New Mexico. Fall 1993. p. 24-25.

Swentzell, Rina. Surviving Columbus: the Story of the Pueblo People. PBS video: 1992.

The President's Garden, SAR.

Campus Tours are a great way to start at the School for Advanced Research! We tell the story of the organization, the collection, and the place and its people every Friday at 10:00 am on a space available basis. They last two hours. The terrain involves stairs, uneven ground, and gravel. The cost is $15 for non-members, free for members. Please register in advance with Marcia Richardson at (505) 954-7213 or richardson@sarsf.org.

If you enjoy sharing the rich history of Santa Fe and would like training to become a Campus Tour Docent, please contact Kat Bernhardt at (505) 954-7230 or bernhardt@sarsf.org.