A love blog

What is the difference between a blog and a love poem, asks Rory O’Connor

What is the difference between a blog and a love poem? Don’t worry, I’m not about to write you a love blog. The very idea shows there is a big difference. Anyway, I’ve got an interest in both, so run with me here.

Writing a blog means you have something to say, however dully, about something that happened, however dully. Often it starts something like, “So I was on the toilet there the other day…” and on you go with your spiel. Love poems can have that form, but hopefully not that type of incident.

But the most ecstatic love poems often don’t even have a story: all they have is a desire. A story is what they hope will happen. So the poet is left with the building blocks of a love story – hearts, chocolates, and other romantic bric-a-brac. And only desire can cement them brilliantly together, for as long as it lasts.

Of course, love poems can have stories, and they’re usually the better – though often sadder – for it. And love letters shouldn’t be without them. The poet Philip Larkin complained that Dylan Thomas’s published love letters to his wife didn’t have anything like (read the following in a Welsh accent): “Do you remember that girl Dilys we met at Ieuan’s party, well she’s gone off with that incredible fool Teithryn”. Instead it was “grovelling and adoring and so very impersonal.” Most of us would prefer to get a gossipy love letter.

Bringing in letters suggests something. A blog is essentially a letter to lots of people you don’t know. You can keep yourself on your toes by imagining you’re writing to your cleverest, most demanding friend. But you’re really writing to lots of real people.

So it’s the same but even more so with a love poem to one real, specific loved one, right? If only. It’s nice to think, “I’ll write a poem that gets in a couple of laughs, cracks against people neither of us can stand”. But all the biggies, right up to Shakespeare, were really serving their talent. Even if you do write that kind of thing, you’re doing it because that’s the kind of poem you need to write.

As the philosopher Roland Barthes rather devastatingly writes, “there is no benevolence in writing, rather a terror: it smothers the other, who, far from perceiving a gift in it, reads there an assertion of mastery. Whence the cruel paradox of dedication: I seek at all costs to give you what smothers you.” This is especially the case with poetry: if you want to keep up the rhyme, you might have to dickey about with the facts.

Maybe you’re thinking: they’re completely different! One is a job of work, the other is a matter of passion! To which I say: they both have deadlines. And if a blog has an entirely arbitrary and capricious deadline, a poem’s deadline is a matter of iron law. It has to be ready for the next time you see her. There is also the matter of quantity versus quality. I would be grateful if somebody with a maths degree could figure out what the optimum production rate is.

So blogs offer the friendly kind of chat you might actually make to a stranger. Love poems, which seem to be so intimate, are written for strangers too: whoever can read them as poems. And you wouldn’t dare say them to a stranger. When it comes to love, best to get a box of chocolates and a Hallmark card.