16 December 2016

"Person from Porlock" explained

The person from Porlock was an unwelcome visitor to Samuel Taylor Coleridge during his composition of the poem Kubla Khan in 1797. Coleridge claimed to have perceived the entire course of the poem in a dream (possibly an opium-induced haze), but was interrupted by this visitor from Porlock while in the process of writing it. Kubla Khan, only 54 lines long, was never completed. Thus "Person from Porlock", "Man from Porlock", or just "Porlock" are literary allusions to unwanted intruders who disrupt inspired creativity.
Posted because I encountered the term while reading Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, in which "the title character saves the world, in part by time-travelling from the present day to distract Coleridge from properly remembering his dream; if Coleridge had completed the poem an alien ghost would have 'encoded' certain information within the completed work that would have allowed him to make repairs to his spaceship in the past at the cost of wiping out all life on Earth."


  1. today's porlock is the person at the concert whose cell phone is not turned off.


  2. We went and saw Germaine Greer some years ago, although still in the time of cell phones, mobile phones, StarShip communicator, call them what you will.
    No problems with anyone not turning their phone off, but the chap sitting next to me had a nervous habit of opening, and then closing, the velcro flap of his pants pocket.
    An unusual twist to the person from Porlock, perhaps, definitely distracting until I advised him to desist.
    Douglas Adams was someone I consider far under valued, especially as an author, but also as a thinker.
    I hold him in high regard and list him amongst my favourite writers, his work enjoyable and with a richness of detail only delivered by a few other story tellers, Thomas Harris and the likes.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...