By: Cassie LaJeunesse
Recently, I came across a letter to Martha Berry from Mr. Erwin A. Holt. In the letter, Mr. Holt included a portion of a letter from Grace Noll Crowell about a possible visit to Berry. Mrs. Crowell mentions reading her poems in front of an audience at the school. I was curious to know if Mrs. Crowell had any sort of fame in the literary world, so I began to research. I discovered that Mrs. Crowell authored 36 books of verse and 5,000 poems in her lifetime. She was awarded many honors for her poetry throughout her life, including being appointed the Poet Laureate of Texas in 1936. One of Mrs. Crowell’s most famous poems is “Because of Thy Great Bounty”, which was set to music by Philip Landgrave and included as a hymn in the Hymnbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Baptist Hymnal. Her work was so popular that her husband quit his job to manage her career.
I found it interesting that Martha Berry intended to bring Grace Noll Crowell to read poetry at Berry. One thing that I’ve noticed since I’ve been attending Berry is the frequency with which guest speakers give lectures or poetry readings. In this way, as well as in many other ways, Berry still upholds the same values and traditions that existed when Martha Berry was running the school.