Saboteur Awards 2017: Spotlight on the Best Reviewer Shortlist

We continue putting the spotlight on the people and works shortlisted in this year’s Saboteur Awards. Next up is the Best Reviewer category – one that is obviously particularly dear to us. It feels fitting then to put the spotlight on those usually directing that tool themselves. Check them out, and vote for your favourites before the end of the month!

Dave Coates

I am extremely hype about this. This has been an amazing year for new poetry and for new poets, it’s been wonderful to have the chance to write about it all, and having my work nominated for the Saboteurs is just the icing on the cake. Thank you so much to everyone who voted, and very best of luck to Freya, Greg, Jessica and Scott. -Dave Coates

Dave Coates

I’m a 3rd year PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, writing on Louis MacNeice and contemporary Northern Irish poetry. My blog is DavePoems, it’s a lot of fun to write, and this year my work has also appeared in Poetry Review, The Missing Slate and Wild Court.

Why voters think he should win:

  • Dave’s reviews are clear, to the point, and he doesn’t hold back – all with an engaging clarity.
  • Unique reviewer who always makes me think differently about a book
  • His reviews are so carefully and intelligently written they can make you a better writer.
  • Always rigorous, balanced and really aware of need for diversity within poetry

Greg Freeman

I was planning to be at the prestigious Saboteur awards night – one of the big poetry events of the year – as usual with my notebook and camera, reporting on it for the poetry website Write Out Loud. Finding myself on the shortlist for Reviewer of the Year will certainly add an extra frisson to the occasion, whatever the outcome! Being shortlisted gives you a warm glow inside. Big thanks to the Saboteurs for all they do for poetry. -Greg Freeman

Greg Freeman

Call me “versatile” as a reviewer, rather than a Jack of all trades! On my Write Out Loud reviewing beat in the last year I’ve taken in numerous poetry events such as Poetry in Aldeburgh, Poetry at the Parsonage and even a poetry festival bike tour, as well as reviewing poetry collections such as Ian McMillan’s To Fold the Evening Star and Caroline Smith’s The Immigration Handbook, shortlisted for the Ted Hughes award. I’m a retired newspaper sub-editor who seems to be busier than ever these days. But when you’re writing about something you love, it doesn’t feel like work at all.

Why voters think he should win:

  • Exceptional journalist who presents superbly written, balanced reviews of all the poetry events I’ve attended in and around London on his Write Out Loud website the day after the event. He does everything for free; he is dedicated to the promotion of poetry and poetry events; he runs his own monthly Write Out Loud poetry event at Send near Woking; he is himself a poet; he’s an extremely talented and very modest man.
  • Greg puts himself out to visit book launches and goes home and writes up the review while it’s fresh in his head and soul. His reviews are unpretentious, not too long, and readable. He reviews poetry collections that might not otherwise get noticed and he has a track record.
  • Clear, uncluttered and unbiased. I trust Greg’s opinion.

Scott Manley Hadley

I’m very pleased and incredibly surprised to have made the shortlist – congratulations to everyone else who has too. – Scott Manley Hadley

Scott Manley Hadley

I have been reviewing books regularly for four years, and I call my style “literary lifestyle blogging”. I believe that biographical criticism is not just valid but essential, and also that a reader’s response is deeply rooted in where and how they read a book – a crap book is more tolerable on a beach and the greatest works of literature can feel awful when read in five minute bursts on the tube or mid-divorce. Books are full of life. I believe that reviews should be too.

Why voters think he should win:

  • Scott Manley Hadley’s book review blog, The Triumph of the Now, is a winning delight. There are two distinctive attributes to the blog. First is its irreverent and hilarious honesty. And second is the obsessively recurring asides about the reviewers own struggles with depression, alcoholism and hair loss.
  • He is a great writer in his own right and needs support. The reviews are consistently entertaining, risk-taking and unique.
  • Honest to a fault, which makes everything he reviews so engaging.

Freya McClements

I’m delighted to be nominated in the Best Reviewer category in this year’s Saboteur Awards.  Reviewing isn’t just about giving your opinion of a book or a play – though of course that’s part of it!  I believe a review should stand on its own as a piece of writing, and that’s why I always try to make sure my reviews are as engaging, as entertaining, as informative as the best books or plays.  I’m immensely proud that my efforts have been recognised with this nomination, and thank you to all who voted for me. -Freya McClements

Freya McClements is a writer and journalist from Derry. Northern Ireland.  She has been a freelance literary reviewer and feature writer for the Irish Times since 2006, and is the resident theatre reviewer for the Arts Show on BBC Radio Foyle/Ulster.  She was a staff journalist with the BBC in Northern Ireland for nine years, and continues to make documentaries for BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Four.  Her first collection of short stories, The Dangerous Edge of Things, was published in 2012, and she is currently completing her first novel.

Why voters think she should win:

  • Does great work for the Irish and Northern Irish literary community. Reviews both trad. published AND self-published books [rare].
  • Funny, honest, engaging. Her reviews are like stand alone great pieces of writing – such craftsmanship.
  • Her reviews are the main reason I read more. Thanks Freya.
  • Freya is a writer with a true journalist’s thirst for truth coupled with an innate sensibility for the creative process. Her reviews have credibility stamped all over them.

Jessica Traynor

It was such a fantastic surprise to be shortlisted for the Best Reviewer category this year, and in such great company. I look forward each month to getting a new poetry pamphlet in the post from Sabotage Reviews, and having my reviews recognised is the icing on the cake. -Jessica Traynor

Jessica Traynor is an Irish poet whose first collection, ‘Liffey Swim’ was shortlisted for the 2015 Strong/Shine Award. A new project with the Salvage Press, ‘A Modest Proposal’, is forthcoming in 2017, and poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Acumen, Rochford Street Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Prelude, Agenda, Hallelujah for Fifty Foot Women (Bloodaxe), The Deep Heart’s Core (Dedalus Press) and Washing Windows (Arlen House) among others. Prizes include the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary. She reviews regularly for RTÉ radio’s Arena and Sabotage Reviews.

Why voters think she should win:

  • Committed, passionate and fair-minded – a force for good in poetry on the page and off.
  • A bright and forensic voice
  • Jess gets what reviewing is meant to be about: discussing works on their own terms, with a sensitive, empathetic and nuanced critical faculty.
  • She is balanced and remarkably frank

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