Pilgrim : Peoms on the Camino de Santiago

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of Communication and Arts


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


'Pilgrim: Poems on the Camino de Santiago' is a series of 22 poems that follow, in loose chronological order, the movements of a pilgrim making their way to the city of Santiago de Compostela on the old pilgrimage path of the Camino Frances. The Camino Frances runs from the French border town of St Jean Pied-de-Port for 800kms to Santiago de Compostela, the city in which it is believed the bones of St James the Greater can be found. It is one of many trails that make their way to Compostela, but it remains the most popular of the caminos. Each of the poems here represent a town or city on the Camino Frances and, while remaining attendant to the surrounding landscape and life, pursue ideas of loss, history, redemption and miracles. Thirteen of the poems fall under the sub-heading of 'Thirteen Theses of Stone and Lightness', and consider how stone matters to the pilgrim- in particular, how stone makes us think anew about what a burden is, and why we might choose not to lighten our own load. There are two guides in 'Pilgrim': the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, who ended his own life in a border town in the Pyrenees much like the town in which the Camino Frances commences, and Federico Garda Lorca, the Spanish poet who, amongst other things, wrote poems dedicated to the city of Santiago de Compostela (his Six Galician Odes). The philosopher and the poet, here, offer ways into understanding the undercurrent of mortality, and the little sniffs at freedom from mortality, that the pilgrim encounters on their long walk. Ultimately, 'Pilgrim' is an attempt to go deeper into what pilgrimages - and other journeys -really offer; quietness and pain and an opening out into the world. The accompanying exegetical essay, 'Kinds of Redemption', looks at the poetic essays of Anne Carson's Kinds of Water, which, in a similar way to 'Pilgrim', detail the inner and outer journey of two pilgrims on their way to Compostela. Specifically, 'Kinds of Redemption' looks at how Carson uses the animal within her narrative to offer up a new way of looking at redemption. I argue here that, the animal- and particularly the wolf- is used by Carson to investigate the hunger for answers that overcomes her pilgrims. This hunger is akin to the hunger of the wolf for freedom and a kind of nobility that seems lost to the pilgrim-animals of Carson's essays. My concern is how the pilgrims might be redeemed from this creaturely, hungry state. Again, I use Walter Benjamin here as a guide; employing, in particular, his essay on Kafka to understand the conjunction between the human and the animal, and the potential this overlap has for working out way toward redemption. In fact, it is Walter Benjamin who will suggest that there are, in fact, kinds of redemption, as there are kinds of water for Carson. These kinds, I believe, ate what Carson is ultimately teaching for, as her pilgrims make their way beyond Compostela to the end of the world.

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