Ian Drury - Sheil Land Associates Ltd. - 52 Doughty Street - London WC1N 2LS

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Anyone Here From Porlock?

Famously, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge woke up from a laudanum-fuelled dream with a complete poem perfectly formed in his head. He rose and instantly began writing out the inspired verse, which became known as Kubla Khan.

Coleridge had only got a few lines in when there was a knock at the door. It was an unidentified man from Porlock, a nearby village. No one knows what the man from Porlock wanted, but he kept the poet occupied for upwards of an hour. When he finally left, Coleridge had forgotten the rest of the poem.

The world is full of people from Porlock. They are the writer's nemesis. There you are, struggling to make headway. Maybe you've just built up a head of steam, struck a rich vein, and you can start to feel like you're getting somewhere, and just then ...

Knock, knock.

Or the phone rings.

Now, I'm a Piscean. Which means I'm torn. When I'm on my own I get listless and crave company. And when I'm with other people I wish I was on my own.

But, being a writer, I know that the being-on-my-own time is vital. Without it, nothing gets written. But achieving being-on-my-own time, and keeping those Porlockian interrupters at arm's length, is getting harder and harder these days.

Bardic poets used to lie in the dark with a heavy stone on their stomachs overnight. In the morning, their latest poem had to be fully formed in their heads.

So I'm off to find myself a heavy stone. Those bards knew a thing or two. One of them being, never answer the door to a Porlock type when you're trying to get something creative done. The stone, I think, is there to remind you of that. And it gives you a very handy excuse: 'Sorry, can't come to the door just now, I've got a huge stone on top of me!'

BTW: progress on the Arthur book - I've introduced Camelot (yes, it existed) and started work on Arthur's ancestry. Woke up this morning reminding myself to mention that refugees to Armorica (Brittany, or the Lesser Britain) recalled their homeland as Leon or Leonais - the legendary Lyonesse. We know it today as Lothian.

Now, where's that stone (he says, just as the phone rings)?

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