Poems of the Camino

Suzanne Doerge is the author of Footfalls: Poems of the Camino

I had the pleasant task recently to read briefly at a book launch for Suzanne Doerge of Ottawa. Her book is called Footfalls: Poems on the Camino. Suzanne is a friend. She and her partner Joe Gunn walked the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain in 2016. As Suzanne indicates in her introduction, she encountered a painful case of plantar fasciitis which limited how far she could walk. While her partner pushed ahead, she had time to sit and ponder. She produced this volume of seventy-three poems, which deal not only with the Camino, but also with the life lessons that both surround and accompany it. 

Perfect Books

For the event at Ottawa’s Perfect Books, Suzanne first read some of her poems, then invited four people to read one which spoke to them. I chose Pilgrim Routine, which I will reproduce below. The poem deals with both practical and profound aspects of walking the Camino.

The profound

Prior to reading the poem, I provided some brief background. My wife Martha and I hiked Camino for a month in the autumn of 2014. We met many seekers. On our first morning, Martha talked with a young woman from California who had broken off an engagement to be married and left her job. She felt that there must be more to life than she was experiencing, and she wanted to find it.  

We met a woman whose mother had died and the daughter was hiking in her memory.

We met a young man from the U.S. who was trying to decide if he should enter the priesthood. We met a German priest who was pondering whether he should leave.

That’s the profound side.  

The practical

The practical side has to do with following the trail and not getting lost; with what you will eat, and where you will sleep at night. Then there are your feet and your shoes. They are important. On the Camino there is a lot of attention paid to your feet.   

A boot rack outside of a hostel on the Camino de Santiago in Spain


The German priest, for example, had a pair of hiking boots that resembled those of someone else. The boots got mixed up at one of the hostels. That happens easily enough. You cannot go into a hostel wearing your hikers. They may be muddy and after a hot day on the trail they are sure to smell. Most hostels have boot racks, and that is where you must leave your shoes.  

And that is where the German priest left his. Someone who was up early took his boots, mistakenly one hopes. The priest was left with the other pair, which resembled his. But they were a size too small. When we met him limping into a restaurant, he had just walked an entire day in boots that pinched his feet.

In this case, you might say that the practical and profound were interlaced.

Practical and profound

That is one of the things I like about Suzanne’s book — how the poems combine practical and profound. You will see how that works in Pilgrim Routine, which I reproduce here. The Spanish word caminar means to walk.

Pilgrim Routine

Like walking with Ghandi
on the 24-day Salt March,
or Padre Miguel D’Escoto
on a 14-day Stations of the Cross

for peace in Nicaragua,
or Cree youth on 1600-kilometer
trek for Indigenous rights
from Whapmagoostui to Ottawa

or like monks in a hermitage
or nuns in a cloister —
each day greets us with discipline
of deepening routine:

rise to the first glint of day,
pull on some clothes,
gather up belongings —
caminar, caminar, caminar

move at meditation’s pace:
climb, rest, descend
exert, rest, reflect —
caminar, caminar, caminar

arrive at the abbey, the convent,
an encampment, a benevolent village:
to wash, wring and hang the day’s clothes,
rest, coddle, feet, eat, drink, sleep

another daybreak, wake
begin, all over again —
caminar, caminar, caminar
our souls imperceptibly altered.

Footfalls: Poems of the Camino by Suzanne Doerge

Suzanne reads

You can hear Suzanne read this poem, and others, by visiting her website.  


2 thoughts on “Poems of the Camino

Add yours

  1. Pilgrim Routine is a wise choice for someone who has actually walked the Camino de Santiago. You have actually experienced both the ”practical and profound” elements. I like the reference to ”Padre Miguel D’Escoto on a 14-day Stations of the Cross for Peace in Nicaragua” that recalls my own time living and working in Central America.


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