Dialogue in the Age of
The Coins of Gold Story
In Chapter One of my book, Dialogue in the Age of Criticism, I wrote about an article from The Mystic World where Paul's book of poetry, Coins of Gold, was found to be first published in 1929.
I received a number of e-mails and messages from ECKists who thought I might be mistaken. They had seen the original book, and the 1939 date was what they remembered. I asked if that was the date of Paul's handwritten inscription, which is what I had seen, or the publishing date? Unfortunately, no one could remember for sure. Since The Mystic World article referred to the 1929 date three times, I decided to wait for some more solid evidence.
However, I recently received proof that the 1929 date was wrong from two ECKists, Melodie Chrislock and Dana Lowe. Melodie had a photocopy of the complete Coins of Gold book, but surprisingly the proof of the date did not come from the book, itself, since it had no publishing or copyright date.
Melodie made a trip to Nashville, a few years ago, after winning first prize for best Pop song in Billboard's prestigious annual contest. She thought she would use the opportunity to visit some of the music publishers and agents in Nashville to find a singer for her song, Hall of Mirrors. While visiting Nashville, she stopped by to see Dana Lowe, and the two decided one day to drive a few hours to visit Paul Twitchell's home town of Paducah, Kentucky.
A series of coincidences highlighted their trip. Melodie said to me over the phone, "When we arrived in Paducah, we went down to the river. It draws you. It's huge. It dominates the whole town. We sat down on a bench at the edge of it and then spied an old man who could have been of Paul's generation. There was no one else in sight. We wandered over to talk to him, and he pointed behind us and asked, "Is that your cat?" We turned to see a sleek black cat following us. Was it Jadoo himself [Paul's cat] or one of his descendants welcoming us to Paducah?
The city of Paul's childhood was so different than I'd imagined. It's a ghost of itself now, but I could see this busy river port city in Paul's day, a mecca of business and culture and new thought. The river was the life of Paducah and surely must have been the focus of Paul's youth. I remember his words from Stranger By The River, "and then there was the river, always the river."
In a recent note, Melodie wrote:
"I saw the original Coins of Gold in the Paducah public library with Dana Lowe in September of '96. It has a yellow gold cover with a drawing of a palm tree sheltering a treasure chest of coins on a tropical beach. I xeroxed it and am looking at it as I write. It was published by Press Publishing Company, Inc., Paducah, Kentucky. Interesting, there is no publishing or copyright date in the book. However there is an inscription in Paul's handwriting to Miss Harriet Boswell dated May 17, 1939.
"Miss Boswell was the librarian at the time, and it appeared from other correspondence to her in the file that Paul had asked her to archive all his articles. He would send them to her from wherever he was over a number of years.
"I know this is the original because when Dana and I were looking through the file on Paul, a woman walked by our table and noticed the book lying there. Turned out she and her husband owned Press Publishing. She said she remembered picking out the gold card stock for the cover. She also said her husband helped Paul get the copyrights on it. She recalled Paul fondly and mentioned they had printed all his things. Needless to say, she and Dana and I were all pretty amazed at the coincidence of our meeting in the library that afternoon. She wasn't even planning on going to the library that day, she just sort of ended up there."
The coincidences didn't end there, however. While talking with this woman, a man walked up who recognized her. They greeted each other, and when he found out they were just talking about Paul Twitchell, this man says that he had also known Paul. He told Dana and Melodie that he had been with Paul when Paul was working as Trainer at Tilghman High School. The track team had such a successful season that it won a trip to the National Track Meet in Chicago, and although they didn't win first place, they did win a medal for the relay race. This man remembered traveling to this track meet with Paul. Like the woman with Press Publishing, he also had fond memories of Paul.
Melodie sent me a copy of Coins of Gold, along with many of the articles and new stories from the Paducah library files on Paul Twitchell. The original Coins of Gold has a few interesting bits of writing not found in the 1972 reprint by Illuminated Way Press. It says this about the author:
"The author, Paul Twitchell, of Paducah, Kentucky, a winner of numerous poetry prizes, is a rising star on the horizon of the literary world of today. He comes from an old pioneer stock who founded Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1632. His literary efforts have met with wide success with the public, having appeared in numerous publications. He has published one volume of poetry, GREEN MEMORIES.
"In a very petulant period he has rapidly scaled the literary heights establishing himself as one of the outstanding contemporary lyric writers. Several of his poems have been set to music and are well known to the radio world. He is a member of the Order of the Bookfellows, Song Writer's Association of America, and the Catholic Poetry Society."
No doubt, David Lane and other detractors will think this is just a lot of classic self-promotion by Paul, but the files at the Paducah library tell a different story. Numerous reviews of Paul's writings, recognition for his success, and many of the articles themselves show that Paul indeed made a mark with his poetry, fiction and historical articles that he authored and published. I'll share some of these in a later article.
Here is a quote from Coins of Gold under the heading, "From Letters."
"Paul Twitchell comes from a famous town - Irvin Cobb and many others have walked the streets of Paducah. He adds a new touch to the heritage of Kentucky's favorite city. - Ted Malone - "Between the book ends" program, Columbia Broadcasting Systems, New York City."
"Your poetry has depth. I can see for you a high plane in the world of literature. - Loren Phillps - Editor, Blue River Press, Shelbyville, Ind."
"It is a pleasure to include your poems in my World Fair Anthology, 'Calligraphs.' - Anton Romatka, Poet, Critic and Publisher, New York City."
"It does me good to know that one of my former students can and will write such good poetry. - Gordon Wilson, PHD, Professor of English, Western Kentucky State Teacher's College, Bowling Green, Kentucky."
"In Paul Twitchell's poem 'The Lamp,' there is a heart cry so beautifully expressed that we catch the scene and feel with lonely watcher the heart hunger that we feel must be a burden almost too heavy to be borne. - From the files of Anne Windsor - Editor, Laughter & Heartcries, Carthage, North Carolina."
The following is from a section in the book called, "Acknowledgment":
"Acknowledgment is hereby made for the permission to reprint certain poems that first appeared in the following current literary periodicals: Popular Poetry, Laughter & Heartcries Anthology, Watchtower Anthology, Skylines, Cycle, Songs of the Open Road, Blue River Anthology, the Calligraphs Collections, and the Southern Literary Messenger."
I should add that all of the poems are word for word the same as in the 1972 edition. One difference, however, is that the price on the original was $1.00.
A few other pieces from the library files round out some information on Paul's Coins of Gold. For example, we still haven't gotten to the proof of the actual publishing date. First, however, here is a review from Laughter and Heart Cries, 1938:
"Paul Twitchell, native of Paducah, Kentucky; educated at Paducah Tilghman High School, Murray College and North Western University, is the author of various prose articles, a volume of published verse, 'Green Memories," and 'Gold Coins' - a volume of verse that will be published by a New York publisher in 1938. He is the author of a number of song lyrics. His song, 'The Lamp,' has received outstanding recognition that holds excellent promise in regard to his future as a song writer. He is Secretary of Kentucky Amateur Baseball Association; Olympic Baseball Commissioner; and Recreational Committeeman of McCracken County, Kentucky. He has served as athletic trainer at Marshal College, Western State, Murray State, and was assistant trainer at Ohio University. He helped the Kentucky State W. P. A. formulate its recreational program, and he opened the first project at Paducah.
"Mr. Twitchell submitted the best group of short verse to Laughter and Heart Cries, and he will receive the Appreciation Prize for his song poem, 'The Lamp.' "- Annette Barret Dewey"
Besides a photograph of a very young and handsome looking Paul, the magazine also included two of Paul's poems:
By Paul Twitchell
Ragged but happy he shuffles along
old and tattered whistling a song
seeking a shade for a fleeting rest
with a crust of bread as his best
he comes from some dim unknown past
and to the winds his fortunes are cast
his wants are not security and peace
but to only search for the golden fleece
and onward he goes like the argonauts of old
in search for the rainbow and its pot of gold.
- From "Green Memories."
By Paul Twitchell
One evening at stroll on the ocean shore
Listening to the waves break and roar
I saw in a father's cottage a flickering light
Like a beacon in the darkest of the night
It gave to me a vague and lonely thought
Of grief to someone each tide brought
How she sits quietly day after day
Hopeful of news of one who long went away
Each night praying that her gleaming light
Would guide him back from out of the night.
- The words of this poem have been set to music several times."
One of the many articles written on Paul, from the files at the Paducah library contained some interesting background on Coins of Gold. The title of the article is partially ripped, so I can't read it completely, but it appeared in the Nashville Banner. From the text, and other articles written, the article was published in the early spring of 1939:
"Stars have fallen upon Kentucky as well as Alabama is only an expression, but down in the southwestern corner of the blue grass state in the land of Old Judge Priest and hot smoking biscuits, Paul Twitchell, a new star, is rising o'er the horizon and whose name is already being linked with Irvin S. Cobb, Mary Lanier, Magruder and Fred Neuman, the brighter stars that glitter in the literary skies. He is the author of Coins of Gold, a volume of unique poetry and upon which the publication date has been set for April 10th.
"It is his second book of poetry and this coming writer of articles, fiction and poetry for several outstanding publications, received payment from a friend in Cincinnati with whom he had wagered last spring that he could produce a full collection of poems, each written and published by some periodical in the short space of ten months, that would meet the requirements of a publisher. With the small experience that is his, he didn't hesitate with a single volume of poetry, but included in that period a full length fiction novel, Broken Petals, which is in the hands of a New York publisher and under serious consideration for publication.
"Coins of Gold, is a fascinating and sparkling book. It breathes the life of the writer dwelling in deep purple dales, yet keeping the reader close to reality as a thread of thought lingers in the background of a mysticism which is portrayed throughout the pages."
Also in the files I found an order form to buy Coins of Gold from Pegasus Publishing Co., 67 W. 44th St. New York, NY. This may have been the New York publisher that was referred to in one of the articles. Or the publisher could simply be distributing copies of the same volume printed by Press Publishing Company of Paducah. This order form included the following promotional piece on the book. Based on the writing style, it doesn't sound like Paul's writing, but simply a typical overly promotional sales piece, quite common in those days, written to promote the book. It gives a flavor of what promotional writing often looked like in those days:
"Scattering star dust and fantasy joyfully through the pages of his latest volume of poetry, Paul Twitchell, in 'Coins of Gold', reveals an ecstasy of imagination and a sublimity of expression which lift the reader to incredible emotional and spiritual heights.
"Compressing a wealth of intensity into each image, detecting the infinite in the finite with remarkable acumen, yet touching the whole with purple glory or elfish waywardness, the author sings of love, of hope and despair, of God and man, and chiefly of natural beauty.
"It is a memorable collection, this slender volume. A torch of hope flaming boldly amid a gusty world of despair, it is fired by the inextinguishable optimism which rises out of an intense appreciation of both spiritual and tangible loveliness. The bitter taste of earth can never keep this gallant spirit from soaring, exultant, to that rarefied atmosphere previously reached only by Shelley.
"Readers already enthusiastic about Mr. Twitchell's work will be more than gratified by this new collection. 'Coins of Gold' is indeed a fitting name; for the book is a veritable bag of fairy money, to be held fast and secretly smiled over; to be kept as magic against evil, and as surety for contentment; to buy, above all, sparkling fragments of bright dreams."
I will be sharing some other bits of information that came from these files at the Paducah library in the coming weeks. However, the coincidences that Melodie and Dana discovered in Paul's hometown suggest that there's still magic there in Paducah! While Melodie took the trip to find a publisher for her song, strangely she found that Paul had beat her to the punch almost 60 years earlier.
E-Mail questions and comments to: Little Known Publications
Copyright © 2000 by Doug Marman