Marc Beaudin is what one can safely call a man of counter-cultural letters. Born in Bay City, Marc was a founding member of the 303 Collective, a group of artists and performers who nurtured alternative perspectives in the mid-Michigan area; producing many original plays and fresh translations with original themes, such as Little Shop of Whores (a take-off on the oil industry) and modern readings of Reefer Madness. A poet & writer, Marc also is the author of several original poetry anthologies and chapbooks.
Two years ago he followed in the footsteps of other counter-cultural luminaries such as Ken Kesey and moved to the great western wilds of Montana, where he develops theatrical projects, workshops, and pulls together a weekly poetry/jazz program called Report from the Mountains, which can be heard on WUCX 90.1 FM. Indeed, much of Marc’s work can be found on his website at crowvoice.com.
On Wednesday, August 4th at 7:00 PM Marc will be returning to our area with a performance at BeMo’s on the corner of 18th & Madison in Bay City for a performance of poetry & spoken word pieces, some from his latest work, The Moon Cracks Open: A Field Guide to the Birds; along with many brand new poems written at various Montana hideouts and beverage emporiums.
Recently I hooked-up with Marc to ascertain what life is like removed from the hustle & bustle of the tri-cities.
Review: Since your move out to Montana what has life been like? What is the arts scene like out there?
Marc: Relaxed is the first word that comes to mind. Productive is the next. I live in a book-lined cabin along a talkative creek tucked up into the Absaroka Mountains about 40 miles north of Yellowstone Park.
Every night I listen to owls and coyotes, occasionally wolves. My days usually begin by the conversations of magpies and flickers. Between those bookends, the greatest gift I’ve found out here is time: time to write, but also time to listen, to think and to not think.
As for the arts scene, the sign on the way into the nearest town is pretty indicative: “Livingston -- 2 stop lights and 14 art galleries.” Some of the work being done here is the typical Western kitsch: horses and steer horns and butch cowboys, but most of what I see is finding ways to be relevant, surprising, powerfully wild and still connected to the culture of the West, which I would say has more to do with a fierce social independence tied to a flexibility of being shaped by the land, than cows and sheep and the men who love them.
The music and theatre scenes are wonderfully vibrant as well, but I’ve found that the most interesting scene is the one that’s not happening here: This seems to be a resting place for people who are busy elsewhere. So I’ve found myself trading performance stories with Jeff Bridges, having a drink with Rich Hall, dinners with Jim Harrison, Peter Matthiesson or Margot Kidder and being at parties with Peter Fonda, Walter Kirn and many novelists, screenwriters, photojournalists and painters whose names might not be familiar in Michigan, but their work definitely is.
The exposure and connections to this crowd has been a great way for me to stay focused on my own work as an artist, and to find the inspiration to keep plugging away.
Review: What have you been involved with creatively and are you constantly working on new material?
Marc: I write every day, mostly poetry, but lately I’ve been very focused on a script that I’d love to see performed in Saginaw as well as here. I’m also about 120 pages into a new novel. Unfortunately, I’ve been 120 pages into it since last spring. There’s a small press somewhere out east that wants to publish a new book of my poetry, so hopefully I’ll get them a manuscript in the not too distant future. I’ve been more focused on placing individual poems in various journals and have been getting more hits since being out here. I feel that I’m discovering more and more where my poetry needs to be going, what it needs to be saying.
Review: What are some of the highpoints since your move. I understand that you recently shared the stage with Bill Payne of Little Feat, so feel free to talk about that for a bit. Also any other noteworthy artists you've been able to interview or collaborate with.
Marc: Performing with Bill was a great piece of serendipity. I was on the bill for an event called The Mainstreet Show, to do a couple of spoken word pieces and a poem with a guitarist and harmonica player. Bill happened to be in town and was asked to sit in. The guy’s a brilliant player and instantly had the groove and nailed it. He took a solo that was one of the best things I’ve heard on any instrument. And because we’re all geeks, he recently sent me a Facebook friend request, so we’ve been able to stay connected. I’d love to share a stage with him again anytime. The night after that show, I sat in with two phenomenal local musicians, Kevin Toll and Buff Brown, who were opening for a blues band out of Portland called The Insomniacs [http://www.deltagrooveproductions.com/music/artists/insomniacs/main.html]. That show was over-the-top: big crowd in a huge, historic train depot, and great audience response. I resurrected a poem that I used to perform with my old Saginaw poetry band Miscellaneous Jones, but with music by Kevin and Buff that may be my favorite performance piece ever.
Review: What type of theatrical and recording projects have you been working on?
Marc: There’s been talk of getting together again with the guys from that Depot show and writing more material to record a demo and start gigging around here. I’ve also been recording straight spoken word tracks, hoping to soon release a CD of performance poetry. There are also some Michigan musicians I’ve been kicking around recording ideas with. If it comes together, it would be the biggest honor for me: these cats blow my mind and expand my soul. Nothing’s set yet, so I won’t name the band, but if it happens, you’ll be the first to know.
As far as theatre, I’ve been enjoyed a much needed break from full-time (or double-time) theatre, but I’ve been talking with a local theatre company about possibly directing a show this fall. No final word yet. Also, I’ll be back in Saginaw this winter to direct a show at Pit & Balcony and teach an acting workshop.
Review: So do you consider Montana ‘home’ now?
Marc: I’m past visitor status, but still need to log a few more years before I can safely wear a cowboy hat.
Review: What are the biggest contrasts that you see artistically between this area and the Great Unwashed West?
Marc: I’ve always thought that what makes mid-Michigan a tremendously powerful arts locale is the endless struggle that its artists constantly face, from dealing with often unsupportive “powers-that-be” and a sometimes too timid public to the basic difficulties of poverty, pollution and all the social ills. That struggle keeps the artists sharp and hard-working. It keeps their messages poignant and necessary.
Out here, there’s great support for the arts, and though there’s poverty, it’s not the ugly poverty that can unravel a community. It’s more a rural poverty that can bring a community together. The artists here seem to be inspired by the land, the wildness and integrity of it. So the arts communities are both highly inspiring and active, but they come to this level by totally different paths. I find that I need and benefit from both.
Review: Feel free to add any other thoughts on topics I may not have touched upon.
Marc: I'm really excited to return to BeMo's. My reading there last time I was home was a great surprise: one of the best crowds I've had in Michigan and some really wonderful people behind the bar. Though moving to Montana is the right thing for my writing, health, psyche and soul, I will always need some of that mid-Michigan passion running through my blood.
It will always be home.