In Visiting the Minotaur, Claire Williamson?s inventive and intensely felt collection, the poet must enter a labyrinth of her own complicated family history, a history beset with secrets and lies, in order to come to terms with her own identity. She borrows from myths, histories, careful observations of nature, of city life, in order to fashion her artful meditations on experience and mortality.
A Picasso etching inspires the artful dislocations of the opening poem and foreshadows both the inherent violence and the formal beauty of the poems to follow. These contradictions repeat both in form and content throughout the book. The family, in ?My Mother and Brother as Horses? appear first of all, brutally transformed. Both suicides, their horse caricatures give the narrator of the poem a tragi-comic distance from their actions in life.
Every poem in the collection is about human relationships, this often gives them the intimacy of letters. The exceptions, such as the poem ?On Guernica?s 80th Anniversary? dedicated to Aleppo, Syria, also have this deft knack of intimacy, of being replete with tender observation and feeling. Of particular note are the poems inspired by the physical aspects of motherhood: labour, birth, breastfeeding, become another aspect of the author?s theatre of pain, blood, and love.
There are also poems of considerable tenderness and humour such as the sweetly unexpected poem ?Cows?, and ?Laika? about the first dog in space, not to mention: ?On Not Being Able To Write About A Dog Without Sounding Sentimental?. The way the author writes about her own vulnerable adolescent self is also key to what emerges as a quest: to find her way from a difficult past towards a more peaceful existence, a creative happiness, a home full of joy for her daughters.