Saboteur Awards: Best Reviewer

This month, we will showcase each of the works shortlisted in the Saboteur Awards by category. Next up: best reviewer! If you’d like to have your say in the awards, don’t forget to vote!

Dave Coates

The nomination means the world to me. Writing online can sometimes feel like shouting into the void, but it’s great to know there’s folk about who think highly of the work. And the fact that Sabotage survives – flourishes – when arts budgets across the country are subject to drastic cuts is a real blessing. The service it provides as a platform for new and independent work is invaluable.


Dave Coates writes at, and is a second-year PhD candidate at Edinburgh University.

What voters had to say:

When people dismiss all poetry reviewers as pretentious gits, Dave Coats is how we show they’re wrong.

Wordsworth described a poet as ‘a man speaking to men’; as a reviewer, Dave Coates always strikes me as a person speaking to people. His reviews are accessible without being at all condescending, and he remains one of the very few young reviewers willing to admit that most collections fall somewhere short of perfection.

Dave Coates is one of the most insightful reviewers of poetry operating today. He should win because his reviews manage to be both illuminating and entertaining, and because he’ll be reviewing for the LRB one day and you can say – ah, we found him first.

Joey Connolly

It’s a genuine honour to be on such a distinguished shortlist! Thanks.


I worry that a lot of poetry reviews are the equivalent of being taken around an art gallery, with a guide who says ‘this is a picture of apples’, ‘this is a picture of a woman’, ‘this is a picture of…’ and so on. So when I write a review I try to make it a genuine engagement with the work, and to understand it within the interpretive framework that the poetry itself suggests. Regrettably for my bank balance, vitamin-D quotient and love-life, I care deeply about poetry, and I try to get that into the reviews, whether positive or negative: this matters.

What voters had to say:

Smart, funny, honest, feminist. Babe babe babe.

Knows his stuff and speaks his mind. Intelligent and thoughtful reviews.

His reviews are always intellectually engaged, yet clear, brilliantly written and a joy to read.

Eniko Jakab

I am truly overwhelmed that I made it to the shortlist as “Best Reviewer”. I am grateful beyond words to Ofi Press for publishing my reviews. I still feel very new to my role as reviewer (after all, I only started about a year ago). At the same time, writing about books feels like coming home after an absence of far too long.


When I’m not writing reviews, I work as a translator of legal and technical texts – a job I am fond of, but which is very far removed from my literature-loving background. All my life, I have been an avid reader, and I studied English and Hungarian literature and linguistics at university. Therefore, reading books in order to review them, and not just for personal pleasure, allows me to reconnect with my younger self. It is a delight to use language – my everyday tool – in a more creative way, and a real honour to present fascinating works to new readers.

What voters had to say:

Amazing and thoughtful reviews in The Ofi Press.

Says it as it is

Approaches the texts she reviews with real empathy.

Afric McGlinchey

There’s something intimate about reviewing a collection. You are studying not only individual poems, but the whole. The poet’s core is revealed. Even coded poems offer revelations if you read deeply enough. Glad, and honoured to be nominated again for the Saboteur Best Reviewer category. Thanks so much to those who nominated me or supported my nomination, and congrats to the other nominees too, all of whom have made insightful comments in their reviews. ‘ Afric McGlinchey


Afric has reviewed poetry for Sabotage, Orbis, Trumpet, Southword and the Penny Dreadful. Her collection, ‘The lucky star of hidden things’ was published by Salmon in 2012. Her second collection is forthcoming from Salmon in 2016.

‘Afric McGlinchey’s poems….work a plethora of intriguing images into beguiling narratives and have something of John Ashbery about them.’ Ryan Rushton in The Skinny Mag

What voters had to say:

An incredible range of books covered, many of which I didn’t know about already, especially strong on international writers.

She is concise yet expansive and makes reading the collection she has reviewed a more enriching experience.

Afric’s reviews are always thoughtful, attentive to the detail of the written work and balanced.

Charles Whalley

I’m delighted to be shortlisted for the second time, and even happier to see Sabotage and the Saboteur Awards continue to grow!


For me the interesting question is not whether poems are good, but how they come to be seen as ‘good’ or how they even come to be seen as poems at all. I try, then, to write about books in their context, using a review as an opportunity to explore bigger issues about how we read, write, and publish poetry. Lately this has meant writing about poetry and the internet. I’m glad that this is interesting for others too.

What voters had to say:

Clear thinking

Give internet poetry the validity it deserves

Consistently interesting to read, unlocks difficult texts in an approachable way.