'Lament of the Antichrist in a Secular World,' by Cara Chamberlain

"Lament of the Antichrist in a Secular World"

By Cara Chamberlain

In her new book of poetry, "Lament of the Antichrist in a Secular World," Cara Chamberlain delivers a poignant expression of sorrow from an insignificant Antichrist in a faithless world.

The opening poem sets the tone. The antichrist, turned drifter, a forbidden solicitor, trying to find his place in a world that no longer finds him threatening. He is an onlooker to a middle-class family who is far too wrapped up in modern life to find room for his attempted malevolence:

“I’m hard to notice as I case a yellow Cape Cod/modestly placed behind a row of sycamores/tasteful lawn furniture waiting. /They’re talking Darwin and Proust. / A yarn of party light strolls down the fence” (15).

Initially a reader may feel intimidated by the content or perhaps a lack of knowledge on biblical literature. Chamberlain requires no preconceived knowledge on the subject. A reader can identify with the characters struggles: the outcast; the oppressed woman; the parent; and the tempted. Her writing is beautifully layered but not too challenging. The complexity is brilliant and inspiring.

Chamberlain weaves cantos of biblical narratives into modern-day concerns. Each poem features a caption, a bible verse, preparing the reader for the correlation binding verse and poem together.

Chamberlain delivers an array of characters. The many voices are witty, shrewd, and endearing:

“A gawky kid, Saul plows his father’s fields, blushing, / shy, at his own anointing. / Imagine how ridiculous he turns up one day—/ spinning, shouting a prophet’s rap. You wanted a king, / God as much as says, so take this one and don’t complain” (78).

A homeless Ezekiel wanders the pages as a forlorn son; sleeping near a refinery; on the bench at the mall; and the fairgrounds in Powell, Wyoming. In Ezekiel’s final appearance, he is sick with a harsh flu: an unsung hero, a disregarded prophet “throwing up like any beast” (46).

Every poem is skillfully crafted with vivid sensory details painting complex and emotional stanzas: “carful with every description: “Lizard scales, one tiled on another; a loaf of bread/glazed with yogurt; death’s cold arm — everything is/ clear to Elijah. Fire, wind, earth, water, life, and/ death” (84).

Chamberlain’s impressive knowledge of biblical literature blended with her remarkable creativity produces an inspirational observation on the suffering of our very troubled world. Still, her last poem, “Struck by Joy,” leaves us with the hope that as new life grows and sickness passes, we must endure the bad to relish in the joy.

Charity Dewing is a recent graduate of Pacific University, Oregon, with an MFA in creative writing. She is employed at The Billings Gazette and Montana State University Billings.