Welcoming the étrangère

Chado, by way of Kakuzo Okakura's 1906 The Book of Tea.
Chado, by way of Kakuzo Okakura's 1906 The Book of Tea

Wise navigator of translation, Paul Ricoeur identifies the experience of crossing over languages as both challenge and source of happiness. Equipoise and equanimity arrive via linguistic hospitality, that sheltered inlet "where the pleasure of dwelling in the other's language is balanced by the pleasure of receiving the foreign word at home, in one's own welcoming house." We set anchor there. Low tide, walk through shallow waters to shore. We arrive someplace entirely new — and also strangely familiar.

Or maybe we are the ones to hear the knock on the door.

The étrangère is both (and possibly at once) the not-from-here and the one inside the house. She is both (and possibly at once) someone else and the one glimpsed in the glass.  She is Stranger, Foreigner, Other. And all of the above, in turn.

When she turns, you might recognize her — though you might not know her name.

To name is to make, ancient root of poem, something made of language. The ones who make, we name poets — in English. The étrangère might name them something else. Similar, but different.

Here, in this house, they are also named guest.

Some guests will be both (and possibly at once) poets and translators, language makers and travelers. Travelers among languages.

Some guests will be things made of language — poems, books, images. Things conveyed via keystroke, hand, voice, envelope.

Some guests will be creatures of another sphere — animal, mineral, spirit. Un-identifiable, frightful, friendly, resistant to labels. Today (via photograph), Chado welcomes all guests past the door, into the sun-filled yard. His name: the way of tea, or happy imperfection. His bark: fierce. Disposition: curious, shy, good-natured. Temple guardian, patron creature of strangeness. On our walks about the neighborhood, children think him a small bear and rush to pet his deep coat. Such does guest become host, a paint-chipped door become a map of the world.

With pleasure, you are invited to enter.


Paul Ricoeur, "Translation as challenge and source of happiness," On Translation, trans. Eileen Brennan, introduction by Richard Kearney (London: Routledge, 2006), 3-10.

Richard Kearney and Kascha Semonovitch, editors, Phenomenologies of the Stranger: Between Hostility and Hospitality (New York, Fordham University Press). 3-29. The terms Stranger, Foreigner, and Other are given particular attention, along with articulation of the paradigm "Poetics of the Stranger."

Richard Kearney, On Paul Ricoeur: The Owl of Minerva (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004). Kearney's lucid guidance, along with dialogues with his former mentor provide invaluable insight into foundational ideas proposed by Ricoeur, "one of the most enduring and wide-ranging thinkers in the twentieth century."

Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea, forward and afterward by Soshitsu Sen XV(Japan: Kodansha International Ltd., 1989). Sen notes that while "Okakura wrote The Book of Tea in 1906, in English, to convey the spirit and the atmosphere of chanoyu [chado] to readers in the West . . . [h]is message is no less compelling, its import perhaps greater. It is, at heart, an admonition that the first and foremost lesson humankind must learn is to live together in harmony, and to respect the achievements of diverse cultures without imposition." (12 & 158).

With regard to Chado's namesake and its translation here, Okakura characterizes the practice of tea [referred to as Teaism] as "essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life."  

With regard to the naming of this series: Being alive in a female body, I choose the forme féminine of étrangère. Please choose as you will, or not at all. All are welcome here.