The Banana Plant


'The Banana Plant' is one of Euphrase Kezilahabi's earlier poems, when his work was much more directly political - as you can see.

We were very struck by that rather bald, and somewhat opaque, phrase 'This is exactly like a polygamous ruler' at the beginning of the second stanza, which we left as Katriina had translated it. What is exactly like a polygamous ruler is left for us to work out, and we liked the way the image just announced itself without explanation bang in the middle of the poem.

We also liked the way the 'quarrels' are dismissed (and patronised) with that wonderful phrase, 'Poor you! Alexander's reign is over!', the way it gestures towards tyranny (Alexander the Great, we presumed) and the temper tantrums that famously characterise the behaviour (and outlook) of tyrants themselves.

The final line of the poem - 'Whom to infect next' - provoked a long discussion. 'Whom to suck next' didn't sound like anything anyone would ever say, but it was important that the verb - 'suck' - was one syllable as 'infect' ruined the rhythm of the line. In the end, altering the word order gave us the pleasingly succinct, 'who next it will infect'.