Rachel Neithercut
MA Creative Writing

Rachel Neithercut

How to be Beautiful: Fairy Tales & Femininity  

In this project I set out to explore some Chinese fairy tales, and soon became interested in one particular tale called 'Beauty & Pock Face' (English language version collected by Wolfram Eberhard in 'Chinese Fairy Tales and Folk Tales'). The story has elements in common with the UK and European tales I was familiar with, however it very much stands on its own two feet as a fabulous and disturbing tale with lots to say about femininity and womanhood. 
I decided to focus on ‘Beauty and Pock Face’ as a jumping off point to research ideas of femininity, beauty and womanhood in modern China, aiming to produce some poems exploring these themes. I found that women in China and women in the UK have a lot in common in terms of the pressure to fulfil certain societal roles in an idealised way. This led me to reflect on my own experiences when writing, and to mix elements of 'Beauty and Pock Face' with research into motherhood and the beauty industry in China, alongside personal themes. 
I was interested in creating tangible forms for the poems, as I wanted the project to have an element of interaction and liked the idea of poems that could be picked up and held. Some of the poems are self-generated, others use found material in a cut-up arrangement, or mix original material with found phrases. 

Dr Lee Kai Hung Bursary Award