Monday, December 19, 2016
"Person from Porlock" explained
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."