Birthday Poem 2015

Birthday Poem, 2015
by Marc Beaudin

A gray morning of crows
& trees tapping the window
with a crimson bud like a thimble
on each finger, playing horse

Then a robin churrips unseen
sounding like every spring morning
of childhood &
gray gives way to blue …

For a few hours anyway
until gray returns
“with a vengeance” we would say
if the sky were human

Nothing of the earth
knows that cowardly habit
& gray just does what it does
threatens rain without threat

But it does bend my plan
of walking by the river
into a glass of Malbec
at the Owl

It does bend my plan
of throwing on some shorts
into feeling the edge of 47 winters
cutting to the bone

But don’t get me wrong:
It feels as good as sunshine,
as a glass of wine in an afternoon bar,
as this silly Beach Boys song

spilling from the jukebox
like a chorus of birds

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Coming Soon – “Vagabond Song”

Coming this summer from Elk River Books:

Vagabond Song
Neo-Haibun from the Peregrine Journals

“A poet’s song to the rewards of wandering and the joy of the highway. A bracing tonic this sorry, sad-assed, gadget-obsessed nation needs to hear again and again.”
–William Hjortsberg, author of Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan

Blending travel memoir with poetry to recount the author’s days of hitchhiking and road trip adventures, Vagabond Song: Neo-Haibun from the Peregrine Journals, will be the latest offering from poet Marc Beaudin, whose previous works include The Moon Cracks Open: A Field Guide to the Birds and Other Poems and the play Frankenstein, Inc.

The bus descends through the night
into the bloodstained antiquity of the Southwest
I sleep fitfully, waking in the predawn glow
over red stone & cactus mesas

With excursions to Central America, Britain, and throughout the American West and Midwest, the book follows in the tradition of Bashō’s haibun classics such as Narrow Road to the Deep North and Records of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton. Amid stories that are often humorous and sometimes harrowing, lies a strong foundation of desire for wild spaces, freedom and the transformative power of poetry.

One thousand trucks pass
as a steel claw cloud
scrapes sparks across the sky
But the one that stops:
Sunlight dancing willow

The book, which will include artwork by Edd Enders, will be published in a limited hardcover as well as paperback and e-book editions this summer by Elk River Books of Livingston, Montana.

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Trout Fishing in Livingston

Trout Fishing in Livingston: A Theatrical Homage to the Writings of Richard Brautigan
adapted & directed by Marc Beaudin
The Caldera Theatre Company, September 2014
at Elk River Books in conjunction with The Last Best Fest
Bret Kinslow, Sherry Pikul, Gabriel Clark & William Hjortsberg
Choreographed by Sabrina Lee

Trout Poster

The Caldera Theatre Company presented Trout Fishing in Livingston: A Theatrical Homage to the Writings of Richard Brautigan as part of the Last Best Fest arts festival, Saturday, September 6 and Sunday, September 7, at Elk River Books/Wheatgrass Saloon, 120 N. Main Street in downtown Livingston.

Culled from the fiction and poetry of one of Livingston’s most legendary writers, the play presents excerpts adapted into a satiric and wild journey through Brautigan’s world. The production was adapted and directed by Marc Beaudin, artistic director of the Caldera Theatre Company (CTC), and features performances by Gabriel Clark, Bret Kinslow and Sherry Pikul. Interspersed throughout the play’s nine scenes will be short readings by Brautigan’s close friend and biographer William Hjortsberg, author of Jubilee Hitchiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan.

The text for the production was adapted from Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America, The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, Revenge of the Lawn and The Edna Webster Collection of Undiscovered Writings.

Brautigan lived and wrote off and on in the Livingston area from the beginning of the 1970s until his death in 1984. His writings, which are darkly comical, highly imaginative and often bordering on the surreal, found form in numerous novels, short stories and poems, the most famous being Trout Fishing in America.

The CTC is a local, independent theatre company that seeks to create an environment for the exploration and development of the art of theatre, and to produce theatrical and other creative events that show a commitment to artistic quality and ingenuity. More information can be found at

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Chekov’s Squirtgun

Chekov’s Squirtgun featuring
The Proposal, On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco and The Bear by Anton Chekov
Blue Slipper Theatre, 2013
Directed & Designed by Marc Beaudin,
The Caldera Theatre Company
Bret Kinslow, Sherry Pikul & Aaron Schuerr

Click Photo for Gallery

Click Photo for Gallery







Director’s Note from the Program

“Chekhov wrote comedies?”

This was, almost universally, the response I got every time someone asked what play I was working on, and I said short comedies by Anton Chekhov. “Comedies? … Chekhov??”

Despite two of his best known plays, The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull, being labeled “comedy” by Chekhov himself, people insist on believing him to be a writer of serious, ponderous, high-brow tragic dramas. They’ve been taught (usually by serious, ponderous, high-brow tragic teachers and professors) that this is Literature by a great Dramatist that must be studied, analyzed, explicated – but never laughed at. And that’s the real tragedy because not only does the humor make his plays more enjoyable, it’s what makes them meaningful – it’s where their points are made. As usual, “the medium is the message.”

Chekhov’s characters are often tragic, but it is a tragedy of their own making, a tragedy that comes from their own egotism, greed, delusions or pettiness, and that’s where the humor resides. In the plays in this selection, there is no shortage of these qualities, though the characters themselves would describe them as “principle” and “loyalty.” And within the comedy of the characters’ self-inflicted tragedy, the plays (though really just simple farces or “vaudevilles” as Chekhov called them) become something more. They become filled with morality, humanity and commonality (for which of us haven’t, from time to time, created our own petty tragedies?).

They become something worthy of the serious, ponderous, artist that Chekhov also is.

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Birthday Poem, 2014

One could do worse
than spend the day watching them:
not quite rock doves &
not quite pigeons–
call them Railroad Doves–
evolved on the lines
feeding with each passing grain train
but now the grain is gone
& it may be some genetic memory
that makes them cluster
on the piles of deathstone
filling the long line of the coal train
that cuts our town in half

The slap of their wings
like an eight of spades
in the spokes of a slow coasting bicycle

The wheeze of airbrakes powering
& the train begins its squealing departure
casting off the birds &
taking its poison dust
to the next town
The wind brings the stench of coal
I take it into my lungs–
knock a few seconds off
the end of my life–
breathe out & in again
then the air is torn by the thunder
of four back units – testimony
to the train’s length
& the climb it must make
to clear the pass

When it’s gone
the railroad doves gather & swirl
to a nearby rooftop to await the next train

Late tonight,
a dragon will swallow the moon
heedless of the greed
that swallows the world
one train at a time

One could do worse
than to watch the doves

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The WORSTHOTELINCENTRALAMERICA – Excerpt from “Dosojin & Tonic”

Revisions continue. Traveling across Central America now.

            Another morning of huevos, frijoles negros, platanos fritos con crema y tortillas then off on the next chicken bus to Guatemala City to transfer to a main bus line (luxury travel with only three to a seat) – onward to El Salvador.

            Enter Cindy Pilgrim, vagabonda de Idaho. Sharing a seat with Cary, one ahead of mine, passing road stories around like a bottle. By the time we get to San Salvador, we’ve decided to join forces for the night. The bus will continue on in the morning, with Cindy Pilgrim, bound for Nicaragua, but for now we will wander off to find the WORSTHOTELINCENTRALAMERICA.

            Granted, there’s a lot of competition for this distinction. There are bad hotels. Seedy hotels. Run-down, ugly, blight-stricken hotels. There are grimy, gritty, grungy, gruesome hotels. There are disgusting, desolate, decadent, dingy, dilapidated, despicable, delirious, detrimental-to-your-health hotels. There are heinous, horrendous, horrible, hideous, hellish, honest-to-Dog-you-wouldn’t-send-your-worst-enemy-to hotels. There’s the Devil’s Dormitory, Satan’s Sleep, Lucifer’s Lounge, Antichrist’s Attic and Beelzebub’s Bed and Breakfast, but there is only one WORSTHOTELINCENTALAMERICA, and we found it.

            It must have been a former warehouse, maybe for exhaust manifolds or broken doll heads, but it may also have served time as a slaughterhouse, a drug house, a whorehouse and a flophouse. In fact, it may still be all of those. The door opens into a cavern where a few naked light bulbs are losing their battle with the darkness. The reception desk is behind a barred window like an eastside liquor store. We slide a few colónes under the bars and a figure lost in shadow slides back a small key attached to a large block of wood. A finger points to a dank stairwell.

            “Cuatros. Arriba.”

            The second floor, where the “rooms” are, is an open space with a line a small windows on one wall. Through their grime-encrusted glass, I watch a cluster of chickens on connecting rooftops pecking through rotting garbage tossed from other windows, giving “urban farming” a whole new meaning. Opposite the chicken-viewing windows are the “rooms.” “Rooms” must forever be in quotation marks, and even then, it’s a stretch to use the word. Panels of particle board had been attached to vertical 2x4s and, since the panels are 8 feet and the ceiling 10, there is a one foot gap above and below the “walls” of the “rooms.” Inside, through a “door” of particle board, is the “bed,” a wooden cot with a Communion wafer-thin mattress, a wafer that had been chewed on and spat out by an ornery old Mother Superior who had finally had enough of the Church and realized she had wasted her entire life for a bad joke. Not even a good lie – just a tedious, bad joke with a cold, lonely death for a punchline.

            At the corner opposite the stairwell is a single stall “bathroom” that hadn’t enjoyed running water for years, which didn’t stop legions of guests from using it anyway. Just to walk past its one-hinged door was to court a host of vicious and pernicious diseases that would leave one nastily maimed or, if lucky, dead.

            Drinks are definitely needed if we are to survive the night.

            Whiskey. Copious, heroic, monumental amounts.

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A Letter to Peter Matthiessen

100_1092 6 April 2014

Dear Peter,

This is the letter I meant to write. For the last couple of years I meant to write this letter to you. This is it, a bit belated, but I have a habit of not writing the letter or the poem or making the phone call until it’s too late for any of them to be of much use to anyone. So this is the letter, finally, that I had meant to write to you.

I keep thinking about the first time we met. You had just returned to Montana and were on your way out to Jim Harrison’s place to go fish the Yellowstone. On your way out, you cut up to the Grizfork, where I was then living with my cousin Doug Peacock. You came up this way even though you knew Doug wasn’t around, but you said you just wanted to take a look at the mountains. I came out of my cabin and we shook hands and introduced ourselves in the middle of the dirt road laced with ground squirrel tracks and hoof prints. We both agreed on the same drainage of the Absarokas as our favorite: not the south fork of Deep Creek that Chatham so perfectly captured (his painting on the cover of Jim’s Legends of the Fall marking it as the great book that it is) but the drainage immediately south where Pine Creek rises, twisting up toward Black Mountain. There’s something of power up there, some mystery that I think we both love.

We stood silently, side by side, traveling in the imagination, which is to say in spirit, up the dark passage. We stood silently, side by side, as if we were old friends, which felt like a great gift to me. You, the person who had the courage and wisdom and passion and generosity to create a life that made it possible to bring such words into the world: The Snow Leopard and At Play in the Fields of the Lord and In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and Far Tortuga and on and on. How was it possible for one mind to conceive those books, for one heart to feel them, for one pen to contain them? What a gift to stand in silence, next to that mind and heart and pen, to stand in silence contemplating mountains as if we were old friends. I’ll never forget that first meeting and I want to thank you for that.

I just took a break from writing this to call Doug, who now becomes, perhaps, the elder of our loose and far-flung tribe, a distinction he may or may not admit to, but between him and Jim Harrison and Terry Tempest Williams, who do we now have left? Anyway, I told Doug that I would go look at the Yellowstone River today and think of you and he told me a memory about a fish you caught in a side channel off Ninth Street Island during your last visit out here.

Your last visit. … I can see your smile, which is mostly in your eyes.

The last time you and I talked, it was over breakfast at the Grizfork. You were heading out for a day of fishing and I was off to another day of building Doug and Andrea’s new house. For awhile, it was just the two of us around that old dining room table, with a photo of Abbey and a painting of a grizzly bear looking down at us from the walls. We got to talking about writing. About method and process. I was struggling with a novel and wondering how to ever finish it (I still haven’t). And then you gave me another great gift. You said, “Something that works for me …” and then you told me how you do it – how you find It, day after day, and follow It all the way to the end of the book. It was the best writing advice I’d ever heard.

But here’s the thing: By the time you were driving away down toward the river, I had completely forgotten what you said. Every word, gone.

So this letter that I’ve been meaning to write, this letter that I’ve been meaning to write for the last couple of years, this belated letter, is to ask you, What was it? What were those few words over coffee and pancakes that I so needed to hear?

I know I’m being greedy. You’ve given us a lifetime of books filled with the words we need to hear. I guess all I can do now is keep reading – my answer is in there somewhere. You were generous and you gave us everything.

So now, what can I say but, “Good journey.” Travel well, my mentor, my elder, and (though I probably haven’t quite earned the honor, I’ll say it anyway) my friend. I will think of you every time I’m blessed with a moment of standing in silence, looking up to Black Mountain and our favorite view along this stretch of the northern Rockies.

And, I’ll close with the word you used in signing my copy of The Snow Leopard, which is both greeting and farewell, and is meant in it’s literal sense of “I bow to the divine in you.”



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Revisions Continue on Dosōjin & Tonic

Two chapters into the third draft. I thought I’d start posting some excerpts. It starts with a Prelude lifted from The Lost Writings of Miscellaneous Jones:

Not much is known about Miscellaneous Jones
He walked a lot of roads
but always wiped the dust from his boots
He was partial to rhubarb pie & drank his coffee black
He did most of his talking with his eyes
but if you heard his voice, even once
you’d never quite be able
to shake it.

After the first chapter, comes the First Interlude:

Miscellaneous Jones sent me a postcard once,
general delivery, Grayling, Michigan
I had to hitch into town to get it

It said, “Every tyrant
is a killer of poets.
That should tell us something
about the potential power
of what we do.”

And then it said,
“Wish you were here.”

There was no return address.

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First Poem on the Tweed-Cased Royal Quiet De Luxe

Trying out the newest war pony in my stable, picked up at The Curated Closet, one of the hippest stores in town. By far the smoothest and quietest manual I’ve used. Also, I really dig the font (even though it’s kind of small for these old eyes to read). The “Earl’s new book” mentioned is Talkativeness by Michael Earl Craig – a great new collection by one of my favorite poets around. We’ve got a couple copies at Elk River Books, or you can buy it from the publisher here. You won’t regret it.

First Poem on the Royal

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Oh, by the way …

… I just finished the first draft of a new book. Ha! You didn’t even know I was writing one, did you? It’s something of a travel memoir of my old hitchhiking days, mixing prose with poetry in the tradition of Basho’s haibun books. It’s called Dosojin & Tonic or Thanks for the Ride, Clyde or The Rise and Fall of Miscellaneous Jones & the Vagabond Angels: Neo-Haibun from the Travel-worn Satchel of a Weather-exposed Skeleton with the 12 Bars Blues.

I wrote the whole thing on the newest typing horse in my stable, a mid-morning-sky-blue Royal Mariner that came from a local antique shop. It gallops smoother than my Remington Streamliner and faster than my Underwood. Like other great machines, it also kills fascists. I live in a town that has not one, but two stores that stock typewriter ribbon.

I’ve made several false starts with this book, each sputtering out after a few pages. The problem was using the wrong tool for the job. I just can’t write on a computer. It’s too easy to open the file of a different project every time the one I’m working on seems to not be flowing. Pretty soon, I’ve got windows open for several poems, a play, an essay and the book. Focus is lost and I’m no longer writing anything. So I check e-mail and Facebook, play chess and think about posting something to my website.

With a manual typewriter, there’s no escaping the page in front of you. It will wait, patiently and silently, forever. I stare back for awhile, and then begin typing again.

This morning, I wrote the final words. Now it’s time for breakfast, another cup of coffee, and then, to begin the first of many revisions.

Just thought you might like to know.

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