John Philip Drury’s The Teller’s Cage is generous in its sharing and wise in its knowing. In a richly textured tableau in the vein of the late Richard Howard’s work, the speaker first reflects upon his younger life only to then, astonishingly, assume the perspective of his mother in a series of masterful persona poems. But most of all, one appreciates the ingeniously formal thrills of these very personal and alive poems. Drury’s latest collection presents a uniquely visceral dream of recollection, into which you, dear reader, have been offered the gift of entrance.
—Cate Marvin, author of Event Horizon
“We’re still chameleons who can’t help changing,” writes John Philip Drury in this new collection that rings the changes on American speech and classical verse forms. Park, Echo, dark, deco: Drury masters the mysteries of rhyme with vernacular charm, both hard rhyme and—legion, moody, curmudgeon, embody—slant. He is also adept at incorporating history into his poems, and whether it’s history that’s close to home, like Harriet Tubman and Pickett’s Charge, or further afield, like Frederick the Great, it all fits naturally, thanks to his flexible style and broad-minded curiosity. Yet we sense the presiding spirit of the collection in his tender, deeply lived and felt poems of love and friendship. Drury’s formal restlessness, his skill at poetic shapeshifting, offers us a “lexicon of things that morph,” moving, in the final poem of each section, from poetry to cinematography as he scripts imaginary films for the theater of the mind.
—Amit Majmudar, author of Twin A
“Imaginary movies,” as John Philip Drury calls the poems in his new book, The Teller’s Cage, just might be the best movies, at least in the hands of such a formally virtuosic auteur. With historical reach that takes in the brutality of seventeenth-century colonialism, the poet’s mother’s closeted love in the mid-twentieth century, and the devastating consequences of history in contemporary Venice, and with characters from a renaissance composer to John Waters, Drury’s poems explore the imagination as our most essential way of facing facts. They defeat the easiness of nostalgia by insisting on the complexity of circumstances, as if the baroque and the realistic were quite happily sharing a beer after work.
—Jordan Smith, author of Little Black Train