Conducted by Meggie Royer, PD Founder & Editor-in-Chief.
Mirabel is an author & a poetry and prose editor for Persephone's Daughters whose debut poetry collection, DREAM FRAGMENTS, is now available via Montreal's Cactus Press.
1. Your collection DREAM FRAGMENTS reads like an extended dream, and throughout the poems you continually weave shadows, light, sleep, and sounds together. What meaning do light and shadows hold for you, especially moonlight?
In writing my collection, and especially working on the sequencing of the poems, I came to associate daylight with the ego, a force which collects negative emotions, and is driven to telling a cohesive story about itself. Daylight feels more oppressive - a strong desire to control the narrative. Moonlight, on the other hand, is more receptive to what has not been understood, and what may never be understood. That includes those parts of your reality that you can’t weave into a cohesive, convenient story. I have also always been curious with city lights, especially in the evenings. I think there is something beautiful about the silhouettes of people against their living room lights, cooking dinner, getting ready to unwind. At the risk of sounding like a voyeur, I find it is deeply comforting to go on a walk through a city and catch glimpses of people settling into their evening selves. To that end, I wanted the cover of the collection to play with the evening being an opportunity to look inwards.
2. Do you believe that our dreams represent the subconscious thoughts our mind runs through while we’re awake, or do you hold another interpretation of dreams?
Absolutely, though I think “running” may be too liberal a word – I went through a period where I was dreaming vividly and I would avoid thinking about them but it was impossible. There was a point when I was able to ignore the thoughts of abuse, or other difficult imagery that I would rather not have processed. It was easier to ignore until they became nightmares, and I would have no choice but to think of them when I woke up. In that way, I feel like dreams force us to confront things. If I try to avoid the dreams, I ended up recreating the nightmarish feeling of trying to escape from something. It was ironic, because avoiding the dreams during the daytime only made me feel like I was live the nightmares twice. But by writing them down and working on the imagery of my dreams, I found a balance between expressing “incomplete” thoughts and having some control over their arrangement. Many of the poems I started by writing half notes on my phone after waking up. It’s interesting because when I was finalizing the collection I noticed I had used all lowercase “i’s” for poems stemming from nightmares, and capital “I’s” for poems stemming from the ego which said, “This is the way we are going to tell the story about our life.”
3. Many writers and artists feel that creating original work can be a form of catharsis or therapeutic release. How has writing played a role in healing and/or recovery for you, if at all?
I dislike that there is a confessional implication to writing poetry. What I love about poetry, compared to journalistic or academic writing, is that there is no strict commitment to truth and accuracy. Confessional poetry is called such because it’s kind of Catholic in that nature; you get to say the truth to someone and then leave. Instead, the genre of poetry which compels me most is Romanticism. Lyrical poetry does not focus on a narrative, but on trying to capture an emotional center of an experience . This emotional center is my biggest inspiration. That’s why I’m also moved by lyricism and songwriting. The release isn’t saying, “This is the truth, I’m confessing it, and now I’m going to leave the stage.” Instead, the ability to feel an emotion, and to then write a work that creates that emotional center in other people, is what I strive to do. That, to me, is the release. I also like early Modernism for the same reason; there is a focus on compressed, vivid imagery which convey deep emotions. . The catharsis of being a writer comes from successfully making an image last. People often talk about the poet’s object of love being a romantic partner – think of Shakespeare’s sonnets. But when I look at my poems, I feel like my object of love isn’t a person. My object of love is the imagery I create, and there is something very healing in that love.
4. What has writing taught you about yourself?
I know as long as I am alive, I will be writing. That’s because I write to think. I can’t not write. As a survivor of abuse, it was only in my last year of life that I was really like, “I want to live.” I remember, I had a moment where I remember talking to someone about turning 21, and having a feeling that I want to see myself at the end of this decade. People who haven’t gone through trauma don’t get it. They say, “Of course you are going to see what age 28 is like!” But I still have days where even 27 feels impossible to reach. Because of trauma, I went through years I felt that I could die at any moment, which meant I didn’t have a strong sense of looking forward.. But for the first time I am entering a decade where I will start as an adult and end as an adult. I want to make that worth something.
Now that I know I can think it through when I write, I want to write through the decade. That means I need to give myself permission to write, even if I write badly. I think it would be a great personal achievement to turn 30, and to be able to see how I wrote poem after poem, year after year.
5. You've volunteered in numerous capacities for Persephone's Daughters since its inception in 2015. Are there any particular pieces or memories that stick out to you from the last five years with us?
Not exactly a memory, but a constant feeling of gratefulness. I remember just having turned sixteen, living with my parents in India, when I got accepted to join as a reader for the magazine. I had also just published my first pieces – ever – in a literary journal based in Rochester, New York. At that time, I hadn’t even visited another country. I didn’t even know that NYC and NY are different concepts. I just remember that summer, I am flooded with the gratefulness I remember reading the interview in Issue One with Clementine von Radics, and here I am, living by myself in Montreal, and you are interviewing me. I never took any of this for granted, and that feeling of gratefulness and fulfillment has never faded.
I’ve gone through many changes in the past several years, but I’ve never felt that my work with Persephone’s Daughters is a chore. I think, especially when you are young in the literary world, you tend to take on volunteer roles and realize it’s more of a chore, or a resume padder. But I’ve never felt that way about Persephone’s. I have been part of different editorial teams, but I’ve never once dreaded who I am going to work with; never worried about a peer being in it to further their own ego. I think the wonderful thing about our vision is that it draws together a team of people that are committed to the cause of recovery. You’d think after so many issues I would feel desensitized or worn out, but I have never felt that way reviewing submissions. In our upcoming issue, we have a story called “Lessons Learned” which I read as a prose editor. I remember when I finished reading, the piece was so powerful that I actually gasped. I had to step away from my laptop because it was so moving. The fact that I had that reaction, even after five years of reviewing work, is a testament I think to the wonderful group of contributors we bring in. That has really helped me stay on as a member of the masthead.
Avleen Kaur Mokha, also known as Mirabel, holds a B.A. in English Literature and Linguistics from McGill University. Mirabel's work has appeared in places such as carte blanche, Dream Pop, and Déraciné Magazine, among others. Presently, Mirabel edits poetry and prose for Persephone’s Daughters, a literary magazine devoted to survivors of abuse. Her debut collection, DREAM FRAGMENTS, came out in fall 2020 from Montreal's Cactus Press.