After the battle of Brunanburh, when Æthelstan’s army defeated an invading alliance of Scots, Irish, Britons and Norse, the Viking mercenary Egil Skallagrimsson extemporised a panegyric for the English and their king.
Englaland is a stunning re-imagining of Skallagrimsson’s song, an unapologetic and paradoxical affirmation of a bloody, bloody-minded and bloody brilliant people. Danish huscarls, Falklands war heroes, pit-village bird-nesters, aging prize-fighters, flying pickets, jihadi suicide-bombers and singing yellowhammers parade through the book in an incendiary combination, rising to the challenge of the skald’s affirmation: you are the people in the land; know you are the people; know it is your land.
Steve Ely lives in the Osgoldcross wapentake in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His first collection, Oswald’s Book of Hours, was nominated for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2013 and the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry in 2014.