The epidemic may have been one of history’s greatest widely shared experiences. For some, the pandemic was an uncomfortable combination of positive and negative feelings for many people. Armando Iannucci’s reaction to the epidemic was not a film or television show. His experience of the pandemic unexpectedly manifested itself as a poem.
He has labelled it as a satirical epic.
It’s a poem in the vein of The Iliad or The Divine Comedy which describes love and loss, as well as the war between good and evil. Although the word satire conjures up images of comedy it doesn’t make light of what individuals had to go through. Instead, it’s a frantic summary of a confused emotional response to the past year and a half. It also expresses his fury and confusion about his leaders’ disastrous handling of the pandemic’s first eight months.
He’d already been writing poetry in private for a while or at least verses that followed a strict rhyme pattern. Sometimes they were just doodles with sentences, while other times they were full-fledged poems. It was a private and therapeutic means of digging into words and language, as well as condensing feelings.
Writing a poem was the closest he could get to something like performing music or painting.
He started writing the poem Pandemonium shortly after being placed in lockdown. It was an attempt to make sense of his astonishment and amazement at what was happening. It seemed natural to compare these people with authority over us to the gods of Greek myth to see how they compared.
The pandemic is still going strong. In the United Kingdom, more than a hundred individuals die every day. The majority of the planet is still unvaccinated and w e won’t be able to really examine and respond to what’s going on for many years. Iannucci didn’t intend his poem to be a formal summary; rather, a picture of what has happened so far. Ultimately he just hopes it resonates with his readers hoping, like him, to make sense of it all.