Communion: “rivers that move in majesty”

Old sign in a junk yard.

They, ere the world had held me long, recalled me to a love of song.

William Cullen Bryant
Gregory Alan Isakov (live at The Crocodile, Seattle, 29 August 2013)

by Helen Meyers

Happy birthday to the Goat! Your zine introduced me to amazing musicians, prompted me to explore new genres of music, and gave me images, stories, and poems that sparked moments of connection and introspection.

The Goat Palace journey begins with an image on my Instagram feed compelling me to follow the link and read the latest. I would argue the images themselves are part of the experience, a metaphor for what we’re about to read. The decay of the objects in the images speaks to the tagline of the zine, an allusion to John Keats, “The music of the of the world will never die.” You can try to destroy it, yet even the acts of destruction create something new.

I have discovered many new musicians (well, new to me) this year. The words of Isabeau Waia’u Walker in her song “Hymn by Her” (on her EP, “Better Metric,” 2020) speak directly to me: “Oh my anger / She is tired / She is worn down.”

One quote from the interview Goat Palace did with Walker sums up better than I can what listening to her music means…

“This release is one artist’s journal of traveling through multiple worlds searching for ways to link her past to her present in a time when nothing will ever be the same again.”

John Ellison

Please forgive me for digressing for a moment here to say that I have intense admiration for the editor of Goat Palace, John Ellison. His ability to interview musicians, to call up total strangers and ask searing and insightful questions, is amazing. If you’ve ever had to interview someone you know how difficult a challenge it is. To have a set of questions to ask, yet to let the conversation evolve and roam, is a talent few journalists seem to possess these days. Ellison gets his questions answered, true, yet at the end of each piece he’s also managed to unearth a little piece of the musician’s soul. It’s this that drives me to check out the music the artists he interviews create.

Ellison’s interview with Daniel Higgs of Fountainsun is an example of his talent as not only an interviewer, but a writer as well. He sets the scene for us at The Business in Anacortes, and then he and Higgs are off on a sweeping conversation about loneliness, mezoverts, and poetry. And Higgs the poet cuts through the word itself to get to the heart of writing poetry…

Writing poetry, for me, has always been a case of just being patient, and eventually the verses will come. So, there’s no scheduling problem there. You just have to have a notebook and a pen handy because you never know when it will strike.

Daniel Higgs

The music on Fountainsun’s album “Sweep the Temple” (Gnome Life Records, 2016), is a mix of singing and spoken-word, with Daniel Higgs and Fumie Ishii playing several different instruments and using their voices to create a lush soundscape. (Excuse my analogies, I’m a far less talented music writer than Ellison.) While the album came out in 2016, one lyric in particular we all need to hear right this moment, and I for one am longing for it to be true: “There’s a saner world a coming / Can’t you hallucinate it? / Drop everything for a moment now / And allow your heart to participate in it…” (from the song, “Many Miles“).

While I’ve enjoyed reading all the reviews and interviews of various musicians, if I had to pick one album as a favorite from the past year’s reviews it would have to be Bad Shadows album, “Voices in the Dark” (Resurrection Records, 2018). From Ellison’s review of the album…

Pure, open-hearted playful self-expression with retro lyrical hooks that are as direct in meaning as is their stylish-beat and the fierce guitar push that carries them out of your speakers. You can almost imagine these guys, after finishing each studio take, falling about laughing!

John Ellison

From the opening note of the guitar on the first song of the album, “Hey Little Girl,” through to the last song, “Freak Out,” the beat goes on (forgive the pun), and if you don’t find yourself cranking the volume on your stereo and bopping along with the music, well, you have much more self-control than I do. I agree with Ellison though, I need a lyric sheet because I want to be able to sing (badly out of tune in my case) along with my jumping around.

In addition to interviews and reviews, Goat Palace publishes stories that are insightful, nostalgic, and informative. The recent story, “Like a Carthusian: alone for the very first time,” is an example. I mean, from the headline alone you just want to dive in and see where Ellison is going. I confess I never heard of the Carthusians, though I am familiar with Chartreuse, so shame on me for not knowing who makes the potent French liqueur.

Using the hermits as a jumping off place to discuss the pandemic, isolation, and community, as well as Goat Palace itself, Ellison is once again painting an image of the zeitgeist of now while echoing back to centuries-old traditions.

It would be remiss not to mention the poetry that is published in the zine. It is to me an act of writerly bravery to post poetry anywhere. Poetry is your heart bleeding out onto paper. To share it with others takes courage. They say being a parent is like walking around with your heart on the outside of your body, well I say that’s exactly what being a poet is like. The words that speak to me now are from the 21 March 2020 post: “Are we really here? begin again, again”…

Shining thing

To reach the end
and begin again
in dark water
in the light
seeing every breath
and every making
the heart, the hands
waking


And so, Goat Palace reaches the end of year one, to begin again on a journey through another year of discovery. May we meet again in this space in 2021 to celebrate your 2nd birthday — having survived pandemics, protests, and politics. In the meantime, I look forward to a new collection of interviews, reviews, stories, and poems, and to be drawn in by evocative images of some of the things we’ve left behind.

The late Scott Hutchison (1981-2018) at The Showbox, Seattle, with his band, Frightened Rabbit, 8 March 2013

photo credits (where not otherwise credited)

“love” / by Joshua Coleman on Unsplash
“gas station” (footer) / by Kaytoo on Shutterstock

Old gas station.