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arts community events

Dan “Sully” Sullivan celebrates launch of new book “O Body” at the FAR Center


At 6 p.m. April 10 at the FAR Center for Contemporary Arts, members of the Bloomington Poetry Slam and other community members gathered to celebrate the launch of Dan “Sully” Sullivan’s new book, O Body, a collection of poems that delves into questions of masculinity, fatherhood, home and the complex relationship with one’s own body.  

Around forty people gathered in the event space and received signed copies of the book from the back.  

The event was hosted by Andrea Sterling, co-organizer of the poetry slam alongside Sullivan. She introduced the night with the organization’s community agreements — a pact made with the audience against homophobia, misogyny, racism and intolerance of every kind — so the people present can be vulnerable and connected. 

“We don't know everyone's story, but what we can try to do is allow a space to be somewhere where people can feel free and feel connected,” Sterling said. “When Sully asked me to host this event, it was easy to bring that in.” 

The night began with performances of three featured Bloomington slam poets, Bernardo Wade, Rin Maas and Tyler Frederick, who all delivered emotional poems after being introduced by Sullivan.  

While the event was to celebrate Sullivan’s achievement, he said he had wanted to invite slam poets and share equal space with them. 

"When I thought about who I want at this reading, it's the new writers, young writers, people who are earlier on their poetic journey are the folks who really inspire me,” Sullivan said. “I want to be able to provide the same kind of platforms that I was provided at the same stage in my career.” 

Maas said she became involved in slam poetry after a professor encouraged her class to attend the Bloomington poetry slam event. She went, and found herself enrolled into the slam competition where she won second place at her first event.  

It was there she met Sullivan, who was supportive of her work and invited her to the next slam. Now Maas attends every month.  

Maas performed a poem about growing up in her hometown and said that Sullivan’s work on the importance of the place where one comes from resonated with her. 

“As someone who's traveled really far to come here to college — I'm from Atlanta, Georgia — it's very relatable to have that physical place being part of your physical body,” Maas said. 

IU professor of English and New York Times bestselling author Ross Gay, a close friend of Sullivan, read a piece from his work, “The Book of Delights.” Gay’s reading contained themes of caring for one's body along with reflections on aging which tied well into Sullivan’s own work.  

Gay spoke on his friendship with Sullivan and how the pair’s talks influenced his own work, allowing them both to explore greater honesty and vulnerability in their writing. 

Finally, Sullivan read from his book, sharing humorous and heartfelt poems. During the reading, the audience cheered and sometimes laughed lightheartedly.  

By the end of his reading the audience stood up to applaud. Through Sullivan’s passionate reading, one could feel that this performance was an act of sharing aloud the interior and vulnerable, to a room of close friends and familiar faces.  

The night concluded with a conversation between Gay and Sullivan about the inception of the work and how much vulnerability it requires to write about oneself and share it with so many people.  

After the show, Sullivan said that despite how hard it can be to share such honest work, he felt most at ease amongst his friends and community members. 

“The place I feel most comfortable in is community,” Sullivan said. “Poetry slam is really one of the first places I found home here in Bloomington and felt like a space where everybody was welcome.” 

For Sullivan, this event celebrates not just the release of his book but also the community he has come to love these past eight years in Bloomington. 

“So what is sharing in community? It's just the best to be here with friends and family and familiar faces and people,” Sullivan said. “I know it really lifts my spirits and I'm just glad to share the work with you.”

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