Bread Loaf Traditions

We asked bread loafers to describe some of the meaningful events that have become traditions at Bread Loaf—some as old as the program itself, some more recent, but all examples of how we connect through our love of literature and language.


Oxford High Table
Joan Altman MA ’05

My first summer at Oxford, a fellow student explained high table as a plot “to make sure that Loafers leave the Bodleian and shower at least once a week.” The vaulted ceiling, the portraits, the silver and candles, and delicious wine and food—it’s all a feast for the senses. The real glory of the high table, though, is the convivial meeting of minds. Bread Loaf brings in scholars such as Christopher Ricks or actors like Sam West to share their insights, but Loafers themselves contribute engaging conversation and humor.   


Dawn Patrol
Alfredo Celedón Luján MA ’87

A ceremonial trek up Monte Sol the first morning at St. John’s College marks the symbolic opening of Bread Loaf Santa Fe. At first light each subsequent day, we head into an arroyo or up a hillside. We perch on an outcrop, waiting for the glorious moment when the sun silently breaks the Sangre de Cristo Mountain horizon. Dawn Patrol began in the early ‘90s, when professor Val Smith and I hiked most mornings and were sometimes joined by other students and faculty members. By 2007 it was firmly established. As Teri LeSage sums it up, “Some of the greatest lessons of my Bread Loaf education [came from] Dawn Patrol: that the quiet of a mountain trail may birth friendships…that you can hold all of New Mexico in your hands after a rainstorm…that there are some things books can’t teach.”


Student of Color Group
Lorena German MA ’14

The Students of Color group is one of the main reasons I returned to Bread Loaf summer after summer. Associate Director Django Paris, along with several students, formed the group in the summer of 2011 at the Vermont campus as a space where the growing student of color population could meet to share, build, and bond. Faculty member Rae Paris has been an enthusiastic supporter, and other faculty of color have joined as well. The group allows us to come together, not having to explain ourselves, our identities, our needs, or our feelings, but simply having a space where we are affirmed. We discuss elements of the program (courses, faculty and student demographics), share in our experiences as people of color in a predominantly white academic space, and often form friendships that continue long after the summer is over.


The Crumb
Sam Swope (Former student, The Crumb editor, and current faculty member)

The lucky writer appointed editor of the Crumb becomes the Crumb guy. It’s a fun gig, but a daunting one at a place where so many expect things to be witty, literary, and informative. Crumb editors are never long-term because there are only so many ways you can cleverly announce the last day to drop a course, remind folks not to park along Route 125, and beg everyone to tip our hardworking waiters. Yet the job does come with one lifelong benefit. Forever after, when you meet folks who spent time on the mountain and say you once edited the Crumb, their faces light up.


Blue Parlor Readings
John Oliver MA ’13

The Blue Parlor occupies multiple dimensions. It is, in fact, a parlor, a place on the west side of the Bread Loaf Inn. It is also a time (just after Sunday dinner), as well as a concept, a challenge, an opportunity, and even, for some, a gateway. Blue Parlor is the multi-space where members of one of the most stellar literary communities gather to work words and selves, and where work, selves, and words warp, multiply, and signify. The carpet is also quite comfortable.