The objective of the Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (FURSCA) is to support original research, directed studies and creative endeavors for students in all disciplines. By awarding Academic Year Grants, FURSCA aids in covering the costs associated with student research projects. Steve Dudas, Livonia senior, sat down with The Pleiad to discuss his FURSCA project.
Dudas took inspiration from past summer experiences to develop his summer FURSCA project, Ambient Noise, a CD collection of spoken word poems, which he also intends to develop into a senior thesis.
So what led up to Ambient Noise?
Ambient Noise is about a few summers I spent as a factory worker in a small factory in Plymouth, Mich. I started out wanting to do a poetry collection and in terms of looking for subject matter my factory work seemed like it was the most striking life experience I had that would be able to sustain a body of work that long.
What was about the factory that inspired you so much?
It really made real for me how privileged I was as a college student raised by a family who made enough money to send me off into successful directions. I was thrown into this group of people who make their living from a very physical working environment. And even within this factory these people have established this culture that’s different from anything outside of the factory, anything in the rest of the world, in terms of how the factory’s organized – the hierarchy of it.
Where did you fit in on that hierarchy?
I was on the bottom, the very bottom, which was cool, because I come from a place in society where I’m maybe a little bit higher than other individuals and then I entered this world and I’m on the very bottom and everyone else is above me.
How is this experience reflected in Ambient Noise?
There’s a main character in the collection named College Boy. The poems sort of chronicle his adventures meeting these characters going about various tasks in the factory. He starts off very unsure of himself, very self-conscious about being there. He wants to fit in so he doesn’t feel as though he’s such an outcast. Over the course of the collection as he goes through these experiences we start to see him become a bit more comfortable and understand the workings of the factory a bit better.
So it’s pretty autobiographical?
It was intended to just be inspired but it’s become very autobiographical. My work as a whole…I tend to look outward a bit more. I call it ‘journalistic poetry,’ where I do research on a subject that interests me and I’ll write a few poems about it. Usually I don’t like writing about myself so this has been one of the first experiments with writing about myself and myself in this world. These are my own thoughts and then me telling my thoughts and exploring what my thoughts are. It’s pretty cool.
What led to the decision to make it a spoken word collection?
I was trying to make this connection between the musicality you can establish with language and the rhythmic musicality inherent to the factory in its repetition and the sound of the machines. And spoken word poetry was something I’ve been interested in throughout college and it was something I wanted to work on in some capacity in the future and all the pieces just seemed to fit together for the FURSCA project.
How did you make the switch from strictly written poetry to spoken word?
I spent a lot of time listening to hip-hop poets, slam poets, poets that had already written a book and then decided to record it. Then I tried to pick out the conventions of those different genres and incorporate those bits and pieces into the work. So there are a couple where I’m blatantly trying to do things hip-hop poets do, using different rhyme schemes and things like that.
What was the recording process like?
Once I got the body of work written to a point where I was happy with it and I went and [recorded it] in a professional studio. But until then I was drafting recordings on my own home recording stuff. In terms of my role recording my stuff, it was just me, the microphone and knowing a few terminology things – when [the sound engineer] wanted me to stop, go back. It was something I fell into pretty quickly and felt pretty comfortable. I felt pretty at home.
What’s next for you?
I’m also working on a chapbook (a collection of work that a writer has completed over a period of time). So hopefully I’ll have that at a decent place at the end of the semester. After that I’ll be applying to MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programs this semester. Number one on my list is the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. I feel like they would be very supportive of me as a writer, but then also wanting to collaborate with other artists and crossing genres – that’s something that really interests me.