Street poet David Marsh launched his seventh book, a memoir titled Redemption at Work: My life story, at St Canice’s Church, Elizabeth Bay, on 27 May.
Mr Marsh, 66, has lived on or near the streets of inner and south Sydney for much of his life, which he chronicled in his previous books of poetry, prayers and reflections.
He is a long-time member of David’s Place, a spiritual and fellowship community supported by the Archdiocese of Sydney and St Canice’s.
Attracted to a career in politics or law in his youth, Mr Marsh told the gathering that he suffered the first of a series of mental breakdowns in his early 20s “at the end of my father’s fists.”
“When I was converted I was in a state where it was impossible for me to find any sort of positivity in my life,” he said.
“My conversion changed all that and Jesus was the first hope that I had of recovery from mental illness.
“My recovery is what I’m most grateful for in my life, that and the standing I have in the community today after being rejected and despised in my early life.”
Mr Marsh publishes his poetry and other writings on his website, A Street Spirituality.
He says that prayer is the lynchpin of his creative life and told The Catholic Weekly he considers his litanies to be the pinnacle of his work.
Some of them have been given a nihil obstat and imprimatur—declarations that they are free from doctrinal or moral error and therefore suitable for public or private prayer.
“I know that my life has been of value to people. Part of the reason I wrote the book is that my life would be known to people and I hope it will be of value,” he said.
“I chose the title Redemption at Work in order to emphasise what I see: Christ’s redemption at work in the story.”
Fr Claude Mostowik MSC launched the book, and said that all of the poet’s writings “come very much from the heart.”
He spoke of the influence of various Christian communities Mr Marsh has inhabited and enriched.
“David’s book has not been written in a vacuum,” he said.
Fr Mostowik paid tribute to the late Sr Pauline Fitz-Walter SGS, Fr Brian Stoney SJ and others who, “in their companionship and guidance and kindness along with many others walked with people … who are considered non-people or not important.”
“I couldn’t help reading this book as if it might be the life story of many people in our community, who have been shunned, rejected and considered nuisances.
“David seems to be speaking for them as well, not only for himself.
“These wounds reveal in David an openness, a connection, a resilience, a strength and compassion for others which has made connection with other people possible.
“He has provided us with deeply human stories of his life without possessions but with the forgiveness offered by Jesus.”
The book launch was preceded by Mass celebrated by Bishop Daniel Meagher, Fr Claude Mostowik MSC and Fr Isaac Koi, and attended by David’s Place facilitator Sue Buckingham and members of their community, Mr Marsh’s family, friends and supporters.