In Moyshe Leyb Halpern’s poem “In the Subway,” the imagery of the subway car as a public and harsh place in the city directly lines up with our discussions in class as the city as dirty, harsh and whoring. We do not know the words that have caused the narrator such pain, but juxtaposing such a personal, emotional experience in a public place is characteristic of Introspectivism. I would not have noticed or even connected this poem in such a way had I not done this exercise. This experience of translating from poetry to prose forced me to reread the poem more than just a few times. In order to pick up the nuances, the imagery, the hidden meanings written in invisible ink between the lines, a reading or two wasn’t enough. I liked the poem quite a bit upon the first reading of the packet. But rereading “In The Subway” numerous times has made me like this poem infinitely more. The way the words are connected, like a refrain you’ve heard a thousand times, just flow effortlessly and seamlessly. It is as if (of course!) they should be written this way. While my prose translation still contains the original meaning, the poem itself provides a poetic, gut-wrenching sadness unattainable in prose. Consider the last three lines of the poem: “Until my pain sings the song of a dog/ That in the city’s nightly noise/ Has lost its master and its god.” This overlooked dog, lost among the bustle of the city, has lost all hope. Yet within those lines, a heavy, enduring depression lingers much more subtly than prose allows.
Halpern, Moshe Leib. “In the Subway.” In New York: A Selection. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1982. 88. Print.