Bending Under the Yellow Police Tapes
by James Doyle
Montserrat Review Names Bending Under the Yellow Police Tapes One of the Best Poetry Books of Fall 2008!
Review of Bending Under the Yellow Police Tapes in Green Hills Literary Lantern
Excerpt from a Review of Bending Under the Yellow Police Tapes in Xavier Review, Spring 2008, Vol. 28, Number 1
by Richard Collins
Our admiration for a poet's work -- the reason we seek him out, wait for his next book -- often relies on one poem that opened for us his unique universe. For me, James Doyle's world was disclosed by a poem I've since often taught to students, who always get it and on several levels: tonally, thematically, and formally. That poem is a group portrait of his "Severe Aunts," who are like Stonehenge in "doily cuffs," and who sleep in beds with "stained glass sheets." Their severity, which once intimidated him, in the end, comforts him. I paraphrase these lines from my review of Einstein Considers a Sand Dune (Xavier Review, Spring 2004) because Doyle's new book expands upon his upbringing and considers his own mortality, at least in part, in light of theirs.
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Perhaps this is the meaning behind the gnomic title, Bending Under the Yellow Police Tapes: a crossing over without fear of consequences, without fear of the "authorities" who have taken on the role of gatekeeper, not with our permission, the religious police taking over our traffic with death, standing between us and the other side while pretending to pave the way to make our passing smoother. In the final (paraphrastic) title poem, bending unde rthe police tapes is equated with our life's investigations of the evidence all around us of growing up, getting older, and finally crossing over. In "Enlightenment," where the drowned man makes "the great crossover" and begins his corporeal dismantling, his disembodied arm (no doubt the one he writes with) begins to wave back at himself, and he laughs as he imagines himself going to pieces "everywhere / at once." This pre-epiphany is "His last thought before enlightenment." It is not so much that the humor is dark; rather, for Doyle, the darkness is humorous. The laughter is key.
Excerpt from a Review of Bending Under the Yellow Police Tapes in Poet Lore, Spring/Summer 2008
by Philip Dacey
James Doyle, Bending Under the Yellow Police Tapes, Steel Toe Books, 2007, 100 pages, paper.
When the eponymous speaker of James Doyle’s “Minotaur” says, “My horns impale / whatever hesitates between gods,” we’re happy to conclude that in this book—Bending Under the Yellow Police Tapes—the poet escapes the monster. These poems are characterized throughout by progression from one discovery to the next, doors leading to doors, with no settling down for the cozy known. Doyle doesn’t hesitate between gods.
The gorgeous “The Mediterranean” qualifies as a signature poem, featuring as it does a sailboat and a journey that take the protagonist “too far from the sight / of shore for the usual categories.” Unlike the Doyle of the author’s note at the back of the book, who spends “lots of time” with “children and grandchildren,” Doyle the poet is paradoxically most at home away from home, assiduously avoiding those “usual categories”—one Doyle no doubt complementing the other. Just as the “current / was a series of intricate moves” and “took the boat from him,” the poet’s questing intelligence and vigorous imagination, both wedded intimately to language, act like that current and propel him forward, the route obviously less predetermined than found, so that what’s a succession of shining revelations for the reader is clearly equally such for the writer. A hint of Dickinson in the poem, when the protagonist “bowed slightly” to the sea and “the Mediterranean / bowed back,” simply confirms the sense of existential bravery as the underpinning of Doyle’s project as poet. All of which is to say, the excitement of serious exploration permeates this new book.