Avleen Kaur Mokha’s “DREAM FRAGMENTS” impresses with emotional depth

On Oct. 1, McGill alumna Avleen Kaur Mokha, also known as Mirabel, released the 40-page poetry chapbook DREAM FRAGMENTS through Cactus Press. A collection of personal poetry and confessional writing, Mokha’s chapbook highlights her journey growing up neurodivergent, processing trauma, and learning to find beauty in her dreams and darkest moments.

Mokha is a Montreal-based poet who was born and raised in Mumbai, India. She graduated from McGill University in March 2020 with a dual degree in Linguistics and English Literature, and she currently works as a writer and blog curator at Carte Blanche with a focus on featuring content from BIPOC writers in Quebec. Post-graduation, she worked under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) grant as a reporter, writing about the COVID-19 outbreak for a variety of local news outlets. She spoke about how the emotionally strenuous work she did during the workday pushed her towards poetry as a creative outlet.

“I probably wrote the most while I was also writing 4,000 words of journalism every week,” Mokha said. “[Investigating the COVID-19 outbreak] really encouraged me to finish my book.”

DREAM FRAGMENTS presents a beautifully folded soul unfurled across a map of pages. Through its mesh of interwoven poems, Mokha’s collection features stories of serene and nightmarish dreamscapes, aching hearts, brutal memories, and entangled lovers. Her language is one of dreams and mirages, with an undertone of animalistic desire, deep loneliness, and inescapable violence. With a Mary Oliver-esque focus on natural imagery, “Melatonin” gracefully explores the psyche of a sleepless night. In the final poem, Mokha tells readers to trust their dreams. 

“Soften & release: / like loose clay becomes / pottery, / I become anew at night / Tighten & release: like hot hands on wanting chests, / I am pressed between seasons / of half-done delight [.…] You, / one moving part of an endless part, / are a stubborn knot tonight. / Soften & release, / tighten and believe / your animal heart.”

As a child, Mokha was actively engaged in songwriting, and took these experiences into her later life as a professional poet; some of her current inspirations from pop culture include Billie Eilish, Mitski, Aurora, and particularly, Lorde’s album Melodrama. Mokha noted that she has special respect for the storytelling abilities of female pop artists.

“We’re kind of taught to hate pop culture figures, [but] I’m really inspired by mainstream pop artists,” Mokha said. “There’s something we envy in pop artists in that they’re able to say things and it sticks.”  

Mokha also spoke of how her education at McGill influenced her creative work and gave her the academic infrastructure and mentorship opportunities that she needed in order to write professionally; the works discussed in her modernism and poetry-centric seminars “The Making of Modern Poetry” (ENGL 361) and “Women and Modern Poetry” (ENGL 414) with Professor Miranda B. Hickman were the most influential. One article entitled The Wise Sappho, by the modernist poet Hilda Doolittle, inspired the chapbook’s title by presenting the idea of writing between fragments, or at least those that remain of Sappho’s work.

“I don’t think this book would exist without me going to McGill and meeting the people I did there,” Mokha said.

Mokha advised aspiring writers to search for community in literary circles, and to not be afraid of talking to other creatives in search of connections.

“A lot of being a poet is the kind of poets you surround yourself with beyond the page,” Mokha said. “There are a lot of mentorship opportunities. [If you] learn how to approach people, [they] will tell you what’s going on in the city.”

Readers can purchase DREAM FRAGMENTS on the Cactus Press poetry website.

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