Books

Matt Love's Yaquina Bay Bridge

OPB | Aug. 30, 2011 5 p.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 12:59 a.m.

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The writer and teacher Matt Love is head over heels, and he’s not shy about it:

“One sunny afternoon, I looked at the bridge’s soaring sinuous green lines and saw a woman. Call it personification or call it a writer’s pretentiousness, or call Dr. Freud, but the Yaquina Bay Bridge suddenly appeared to me as a very attractive woman with perfect curvy hips, and I am a hip man. Right then, I dubbed her the Green Lady and I was in love.”

Love lives in South Beach, and has driven, walked and biked his way across his “Green Lady” for years now. The Newport bridge is turning 75 on Labor Day. Love thinks she’s still in perfect shape, still worthy of awe and respect.

"Love & The Green Lady, Meditations on the Yaquina Bay Bridge: Oregon’s Crown Jewel of Socialism," by Matt Love, Nestucca Spit Press, 2011, 200 pages.

Love’s new book, “Love and the Green Lady,” is a collection of photos and essays about his personal relationship with the bridge — one that evokes “gigantic imagination of the landscape and personal reflection.” It’s also the accumulated stories of students, taxi drivers and passersby. Love has crafted a sort of communal essay about what a piece of architecture can mean for a town.

But while Love usually turns to words to express his passions for Oregon and its history, he tells OPB’s Think Out Loud that this book started with photography.

“I was working on another book at the time and hadn’t intended to write this book. But I was teaching a photography class that year and started taking photos as I drove across the bridge. I was shooting literally every day and bringing the photos in to show my students.”

The experience of taking photos of the bridge helped Love and his students see the familiar structure in new ways and sparked his latest obsession. The bridge soon worked its way into his curriculum. He took his students on a field trip to shoot photos, write poems and take a closer look at the Newport landmark.

Although the students had grown up crossing the structure, “most of them had never really gone to the bridge,” he says. “They were just intrigued by the bevels on the columns, the arches, looking underneath the bridge. They loved the giddiness of being with their friends and their teacher, doing something they’d never done before, which is documenting the beauty of something and making people notice.”

After taking hundreds of photos, Love began to dive deeper into his bridge obsession. He researched the bridge’s designer, Conde McCullough, and gathered anecdotes about the bridge from his students and others in the Newport community. From these photos and stories, a book emerged.

“Everybody I’ve ever talked to in the Newport area has some kind of bridge-related story,” says Love. “And it’s used for different things in moments of crisis, moments of romance, moments of reflection… People have different relationships to this bridge in that community. That’s what I was really struck by.”

Listen online to Think Out Loud’s full interview with Matt Love.

 

Go See It

Newport’s month-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Yaquina Bay Bridge begins Labor Day weekend and culminates the first weekend of October with two days of activities in a 1930s-style community birthday party.

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