Art Beat: Stiff And Stupor

Feb 14, 2019

Steve Hughes
Credit Mira Hughes

Steve Hughes has an unusual way of collecting stories. The Detroit-area writer gathers them at local watering holes, talking to people he meets sitting at the bar, video camera in hand.


Some of these stories make it into Stupor, Detroit’s longest-running 'zine. Others have inspired stories in Hughes’ new collection, Stiff (Wayne State University Press, 2018).

“The stories were all written to be read aloud at the Good Tyme Writer Buffet, which is a literary series that I run in Hamtramck,” Hughes says. “So they all have a quality of a story that’s being spoken to you. The stories are all about people who are struggling and trying to figure out their lives. ”

Hughes also is part of an art gallery in Hamtramck called Public Pool, and some of the stories in Stiff were born because of artwork there prompted him to write. To maintain the feel of a story that is spoken aloud, he reads the stories to himself as he writes.

Credit Wayne State University Press

“It shapes the way that I phrase a sentence,” he says. “I’m constantly reading and listening to my own voice. I’m trying to think about how it will sound and if it will come across naturally or will it sound awkward.”

Hughes may gather many of his stories at the bar but he doesn't write them there. He used to scribble notes on napkins but now he relies on the video camera.

“When I go to the bars to collect stories for Stupor, I explain what I’m doing,” he says. “I have my camera and I ask pretty much everyone at the bar if they have a story for me. Some do and some don’t but it’s a good way to start. It’s a prompt that becomes a transcript that becomes my rough draft.”

Hughes moved to the Detroit area in 1995 and fell in love with the city and watching its rebirth.

“Detroit was beaten down severely but there’s so much happening here at a grassroots level in the arts,” Hughes says. “There’s so much possibility.”

Hughes will read from his work and answer questions at 7:30 p.m. on February 19 in Mandelle Hall at Kalamazoo College. The event is free and open to the public. He will also appear at 7 p.m. on February 20 at Schuler Books on 28th Street in Grand Rapids.

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