Zest Profile: Rachel Van Aalst

Rachel Van Aalst: Featured Poet

Rachel is someone who really enjoys words. As a double major in Spanish and Creative Writing she is someone who is constantly surrounded by language, using her words as a platform of artistic expression.

Rachel began her artistic endeavors through music and songwriting. She built up a large library of songs that she has scarcely shown to those around her. “My grandfather gave me his laptop. He actually gave it to me instead of my brother because he knew my brother would use it for videogames and I would use it for writing,” Rachel says, with a smile and a sense of gratitude in her voice. When asked what type of music she wrote, she exclaimed “Actually (I wrote) worship songs.” She does not exactly remember where her transition into poetry truly lies. “I have been writing songs and song lyrics since I was 10,” she says, “but I don’t think I started writing poetry until my last year of high school… I probably wrote a few things beforehand…(songwriting) is a very similar medium.”

As a native of Chapel Hill, her parents moved to Kentucky after she graduated, and now she says her true home is here in Boone. “I feel like Boone is home, because it is the place I have lived the most recently.”

She states that she enjoys spontaneity in her life, and derives a lot of her poems from spontaneous experiences. “I feel like a good way to describe me is like a dreamer or a floater,” she says. “I love to do what I feel like doing in the moment.”

One of these experiences is in her published poem, Ode to a Kale Salad. “I put hours into this kale salad, and I had the thought, because it was really good but then I just put too much dressing on it … then I was like, ‘My salad is overdressed,’ and there’s something there to go off of.” She recalls the experience fondly, reminiscing on the humor behind the situation.

Some of her biggest poetic inspiration comes from the likes of  Richard Siken and David Lee Garrison. She enjoys their refreshing takes on poetry, especially Garrison’s Bach in the DC Subway. “You think of poets or arts as kind of being – like goring your soul or something, but I think (Garrison’s) work is very refreshing.”

However, she takes the most inspiration from Jorge Luis Borges. “He went blind in the last 15 or 20 years of his life, and he stopped writing prose but kept writing poetry because he could memorize what he was writing better and not think about pen and paper so much. There have been some poems that I have really loved that just didn’t feel right to write it down and just worked on it in my head and had it memorized. There’s a certain level of familiarity when it comes that way.”

It is easy to tell just how passionate Rachel is about her poetry. She often comes up with her poems on a whim, and is hesitant to change them after she has come up with them. “I hate revisions … like a lot of people, I don’t like change … I don’t necessarily agree with people with how it should be changed.” Rachel sees her poetry as her way of expression, and wishes to show her true self to those who are around her.

Rachel has been published by the Peel previously, and is also having her work published in an anthology entitled “Dream of a World Waking Up,” which will be published through Z Publishing house. This anthology is a book that uses work from a variety of young artists from across the nation, and Rachel will have six of her poems published in this book.

Rachel has a desire to continue writing in the future. “I have been thinking a lot about publishing recently,” she states with a sense of bliss towards how her future looks. “If I am going to make a career out of this, then I just need to keep writing and keep writing.” She seems ready for what the future has in store for her.

When asked if she writes any poetry in Spanish as well she answers jokingly, “Eh not yet, but, maybe… I might someday try to write in Spanish.”

Rachel’s uses her poetry as a form of expression, and captures the moments of her life that she feels are worth sharing. She has a way to craft language into the poems that she writes, and is able to artistically express herself. After being asked what makes a poem, “(Poetry) has to do with the intentionality of the language.”