Spotlight on the Best Reviewer Shortlist

We’re not allowed to have favourites of course, but this category is very close to our hearts. We added it two years ago as a thank you to all the wonderful people out there who (often for free) spend hours unpicking literature and translating and promoting it to a different audience. Each reviewer on this shortlist has their own unique style and have independently taken steps to make today’s contemporary literature scene a more interesting place – we really encourage you to check out their websites to see for yourself.

If you want to vote, or see the full shortlist, go here.

Dave Coates


I’ve read some absolutely wonderful critical writing on poetry this year, so being shortlisted for this award feels pretty amazing. Huge thanks to everyone who read my work and thought it was worth nominating, that kind of support means the absolute world to me.


Dave Coates is a second year PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, writing on Louis MacNeice and contemporary Northern Irish poetry. He writes at, and tweets @davepoems.

Why voters think he should win:

Clever; sensitive readings of all kinds of texts; willing to admit bias and poor judgement; great tone.

No other reviewer out there is doing as much to challenge accepted views and the often unreflected prejudices of the poetry ‘establishment’.

His reviews continue to be fierce, spot-on in their analysis, and backed up with a hinterland of critical awareness to rival anything in the Guardian or TLS – but with the wit and humility which you would never find there.


Joey Connolly

Once again finding myself sharing a shortlist with such brilliant, open-eyed reviewers is a genuine pleasure.

Joey Connolly Author Photo

If there’s any (conscious) principled position behind my reviews as a body of work, it’s that I try primarily to understand a publication on its own terms: to figure out, first and foremost, what it’s trying to do. That’s the only position, I think, from which a book can be fairly evaluated, really. Although it’s worth remembering that ‘what it’s trying to do’ is also sometimes worth evaluating. It’s a good way, too, of forcing yourself as a critic to be aware of your own aesthetic and socially-conditioned predilections. Which is an important aspect of being a critic, and needs badly to become more so.

Why voters think he should win:

It’s rare to find such insightful reviews that read often as beautifully as the poetry they’re exploring.

Always insightful, smart, lucid and challenging.

Joey Connolly is the rarest thing, a fearless reviewer.

Emma Lee

Competition for the Saboteur Awards is always fierce so to make the shortlist is fantastic. Often people remember the review rather than the reviewer so it’s good to know people are reading and taking notice.

Emma Lee 2015

Emma Lee reviews for Sabotage Reviews, London Grip, The Journal and The High Window Journal, on her blog and previously for Poetry Quarterly Review, Assent, 10th Muse and New Hope International. She was co-editor with Kathleen Bell and Siobhan Logan for “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” (Five Leaves, 2015) and is currently co-editor with Ambrose Musiyiwa of “Welcome to Leicester” a poetry anthology forthcoming from Dahlia Press. Her poetry publications are “Ghosts in the Desert” (Indigo Dreams, 2015), “Mimicking a Snowdrop” (Thynks Press, 2014) and “Yellow Torchlight and the Blues” (Original Plus, 2004).

Why voters think she should win:

Goes to the heart of each publication, well expressed and perceptive

Concise reviews – appealing to all levels of poet. Real dedication to poetry.

Emma is such an insightful reviewer – which comes, I believe, from her great ability as a poet. She gets to the heart of why a poem works.


Fiona Moore

That came out of today’s blue sky! It’s great that the Saboteur Awards honour the work done by reviewers.

Fiona Moore01

Fiona Moore lives in Greenwich.  She’s written reviews for The Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, MPT and websites including Sabotage, Elsewhere, London Grip and Sphinx.  Her blog Displacement contains reviews and commentary on poetry and poetics, and several audits of gender and ethnicity for poetry prizes, publishers and the Guardian Review’s reviews.  She won the Saboteur Best Reviewer award in 2014.  Her first pamphlet The Only Reason for Time was a Guardian poetry book of the year and her second, Night Letter, is out from HappenStance.  She is assistant editor at The Rialto.

Why voters think she should win:

Moore’s reviews are clear-eyed and thorough, and her research into biases in poetry publishing are hugely important.

Insightful reviews

sincere, thoughtful reviews that make you reconsider your own outlook

Bethany W Pope

It is an incredible honour to be nominated in the Best Reviewer category, especially given the quality of the others on this list. Reviewing is, by and large, an undervalued art. This is because it is often (mistakenly) viewed as either a prolonged blurb, advertising collections blindly, or a megaphone for the reviewer’s own views instead of a means of expanding the conversations that grow up around new works. It is a challenge, and a joy, to turn an analytical eye to another poet’s work. It is a challenge, and a joy, to honour that work by presenting that analysis in a way that is beautiful.


Bethany W Pope is an award-winning writer. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program, and her MA from the University of Wales Trinity St David. She has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012) Crown of Thorns,(Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014). Her collection The Rag and Boneyard, was published this month by Indigo Dreams, and her chapbook Among The White Roots Will be released by Three Drops Press next autumn. Her first novel, Masque, shall be published by Seren this June.

Why voters think she should win:

One of the most perceptive, most articulate reviewers around with a major poetic gift of her own.

Bethany has a compassionately critical eye and always offers as balanced a view as possible.

Reviews are honest and spot on. Love her work in The Ofi Press!