The Person from Porlock

This was the early morning vista from my bedroom window the other day:

Morning Mist 2

While a snapshot doesn’t do it justice, you get the idea. The scene evoked the exotic, and it wasn’t long before the word “Xanadu” came to mind. I tried to remember–other than the Olivia Newton-John movie of 1980–what it meant, which led me to Google.

Among other locations, there’s a five-star hotel in the Aegean off the coast of Turkey on Xanadu Island that looked enticing, but that still didn’t explain the origin of the word, which I knew was lurking in my misty memory. I read on, and there it was: Xanadu was the summer palace of Kublai Khan, Khagan of the Mongol Empire, founder of the Yuan Dynasty, Emperor of China in the late 13th century.  

Kublai Khan

His seasonal retreat was immortalized in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1797 poem, Kubla Khan. As the story goes, Coleridge was interrupted while writing the poem–the idea for which had come to him in a dream–by a visitor from Porlock, a village in the southwest of England. Coleridge was unable to complete his composition, the vision in his dream disappearing (a pesky possibility with opium users) with the arrival of the man. It was not until years later, in 1816, and at the urging of his friend, Lord Byron, that the work was finally published. The term “Person from Porlock” came to mean any unwanted intruder who interrupts creative inspiration.

There’s a lot to study about the meaning of the poem, but on the surface two issues are of interest to me: one is the interpretation that it’s about poetry itself, and inspiration, and creativity; the other is how the flow of that creativity can be interrupted.

Since April, many things have halted progress on finishing my manuscript: family illness, travel, even feedback from my editor, which, while invaluable, caused me to rethink my entire approach to the novel. Finally, there was another inevitable relocation. (A Movable Marriage, after all, is the title of the book.)

I’ve decided to make the ethereal shot above of the Portuguese countryside my screensaver for a while. It will remind me to not let the Person from Porlock get me off track. I will complete my book.

I just hope it doesn’t take nineteen years.


About Tricia Pimental

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tricia Pimental's second memoir, A Movable Marriage, has received 5 Star reviews from both Epic Book Quest and Readers' Favorite. It's available on Amazon in both Kindle ( and print ( versions. She is also the author of two Royal Palm Literary Award Competition-honored books: Rabbit Trail: How a Former Playboy Bunny Found Her Way, and Slippery Slopes. Other work has appeared in International Living Magazine; A Janela, the quarterly magazine of International Women in Portugal; and anthologies compiled by the Florida Writers Association and the National League of American Pen Women. A member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and a former Toastmaster, Ms. Pimental resides in Portugal. She can be reached at and on Twitter @Tricialafille.
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8 Responses to The Person from Porlock

  1. There once was a Person from Porlock
    Whom I always thought was a warlock
    He gave me a fright
    In the midst of the night
    (Now figure out how to insert ‘writer-block’ in the last line…)

    Fascinating blog, Tricia.

  2. Thanks, Ronnie.
    (And you know I’ll be noodling around with that last line.)

  3. Lynne Baker says:

    Loved it! And have missed your writings lately. Maybe now that you are more settled in we will get more? And miss you, too!

  4. Yes, it’s been way too long on both counts. XO

  5. sallyann says:

    What a great storyteller you are. I want more! Lots of love to you and it was wonderful to chat yesterday!

  6. Thanks, Sallyann. I’m working at it.
    Same here about our chat. Will send an email about our visiting neighbor yesterday…

  7. Ninette Bravo says:

    loved this post and you…keep them coming 🙂

  8. Thank you, love you, and that’s my plan. 🙂

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