Completely Subjective: Mary Ruefle’s “How I Became Impossible”

Mary Ruefle’s, “How I Became Impossible”, published in the 2004 Courty Green Issue, stands out as a poem with many different interpretations and offers a challenge in order to break it down. Ruefle, author of eight poetry books, taught in the MFA writing program at Vermont College and has been featured in Best American Poetry three separate times. Her known poem, “How I Became Impossible” was featured in the 2005 edition, with its simple, yet effective meaning.

This poem, a creative expression of nonconformity, showed an insight of how the author learned she was independent and did not listen to the social norms of the time. It stood out to me as I scanned the table of contents of the 2005 Best American Poetry. The beginning of the poem starts with descriptions of an infant, “congenitally unable to do anything”, unable “to see”, “to love” something. With the continuing lines, it slowly shows a change in age as she grows older. She is very creative in the way she describes how she grew older and began to see things in which she said she “became green-eyed” and where she “formed opinions”. These thoughts were ones that were different and unimaginable, but that did not stop her. This takes me back to when I was little and was unaware of the distances between places.  As a restless little kid, I always thought that neighboring towns were miles away requiring hours of driving, and throughout the drive would continuously ask how much longer. As I got older, I soon learned the reality of it all and how close they truly were, but to this day it still sticks with me and at times I still feel as though they are so far away.

Throughout Ruefle’s life she was one to think that penguins and polar bears lived together, but scientifically this was impossible. She was oblivious and fitting the world to her imaginative will. Instead of accepting the fact of the impossibility, she stated how she herself was impossible. She repeats the word “impossible” as a way to show her attempt to make the world fit her vision and her creative. She does not change her view and conform to what others think, she is persistent with her beliefs and her last line, “one day it really would be true”, captures her ideology and willingness to be on her own.


I have a connection with this because I really do agree with the idea of having your own opinions and taking a stand on what you want to believe in. This reminds me of my sister as a young kid. When she was little she always used to think stuffed animals had their own feelings and life. She would always refuse to throw them out and get rid of them because she felt bad and as though she it would hurt them. As she got older, she quickly learned they were inanimate objects with no feelings, but still felt as though they could not be thrown. It was had become embedded in her mind and nothing could change it. She had become her own individual and just wanted a chance to believe in what she wanted. My mother would always tell her she needed to get rid of some of her stuffed animals, but she would never comply due to her childish yet imaginative beliefs.

This poem brought forward some important questions to me and made me think of what people can really do. For instance, who can really decide what is right and wrong in terms of opinions and beliefs? Why is it fair for someone to question what you think might be true? So many people have had beliefs and ideas since they were young and no one should intervene and tell them otherwise. The individual should have the opportunity to learn for themselves and to grow and base their own opinions and thoughts on the world around them. This poem made me feel that it was okay to have your own imagination, that everyone is free to think the way they want to think and to create their own theories. This poem showed how someone, although with proven evidence may not change what they believe in so they can have their own free will and let their imagination run free.


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