Melbourne News

Etiquette with Angels: Fr Andy Bullen SJ poetry book launched in Melbourne

Friday 22 June 2018

Media and Communications Office  

On Thursday 21 June, Fr Andy Bullen SJ, launched Etiquette with Angels, his most recent publication of selected and new poetry to a enthusiastic and appreciative audience at the Jesuit College of Spirituality in Parkville.

Fr Bullen, currently parish priest at North Sydney’s Our Lady of the Way and formerly a teacher Xavier College and rector of Jesuit Theological College, explores a variety of themes throughout his poetry and told the gathering the event was humbling and ‘very special’.

Fellow Jesuit and writer, Fr Andrew Hamilton, launched the publication and praised Fr Bullen’s relaxed tone, pointing out that the poet’s language encourages his audience to immerse themselves in the poetry.

‘Andy’s poems glide effortlessly like a white swan crossing a lake. The urbane and conversational purpose of the poem slows you down, lulls you into security and leaves you vulnerable to a final line that reveals an unexpected, often uncomfortable end,’ Fr Hamilton told the launch.

The collection of poems, explained Fr Bullen, were a reflection on his life that has included fascinating and unique perspectives.

At the age of 13 Fr Bullen was diagnosed with cancer, resulting in the amputation of his right leg. The trials and blessings of living with a handicap intertwine with other life experiences, humour and cultural observations throughout the book.

‘I’ve been writing poetry for nearly all of my adult life and I’m 70 now. The oldest poem included in this publication is from 1979,’ Fr Bullen told Melbourne Catholic.

‘I was forced to consider what I’d like to include and when reading through the book, you can expect to be taken to several different directions, both in time and physical places.

My poetry keeps to pretty concrete images, places and people. I wouldn’t say it is abstract although there may be moments it becomes that way,’ said Fr Bullen.

‘On the whole my poetry is rooted in particular events and particular place, so it’s more about the particular – I hope,’ he added.

The book’s title, Etiquette with Angels, drew inspiration from his time teaching English to high school students and the need to instil a sense of decorum among the young pupils. 

‘Presuming you hadn’t been visited by an angel for a while you might have forgotten how to behave properly,’ explained Fr Bullen. ‘So the poem gives you some clues on what to do should an angel swoop your way.’

As part of the book launch, Fr Bullen’s poem ‘Wisdom’, was paired with a musical arrangement by Jesuit composer, Fr Chris Wilcock SJ, and performed by Timothy Reynolds (tenor) and Stefan Cassomenos (piano).

‘Casper, Casper, do not be afraid of me, of yourself, and even of Herod …’ calls the poem as Timothy’s soaring vocals and Stefan’s heavenly matched the spiritual theme of Fr Bullen’s words.

For more information and to purchase a copy of Etiquette with Angels, visit the St Paul’s Bookshop or contact David Lovell Publishing.
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