A collaborative poetry collection with award-winning poet Mario Susko exploring themes of love and family in a time of civil war and exile. As we all watch the heart- wrenching scenes of distruction in Syria, we share our own experiences of life and love through two very different kinds of war; his that of ex-Yugoslavia and mine in the dying years of old Apartheid South Africa. Dislocation and exile can happen to any of us and we wished to share the beauty and strength of the human spirit that finds its voice, often uniquely during such violent outbursts in our lives. 20/20 is a glimpse into the private lives of two very different histories bound by a shared insight into the love and wisdom of our very human hearts.
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Renée Sigel. I was born and raised during the ‘golden age of apartheid’. It was a profound lesson in the consequences of dehumanising individuals for political gain and shaped my humanist outlook to life. It also made an activist out of me from a very young age. My very first published essay in Afrikaans dealt with thoughts and ideas I had about war. I was thirteen. Later, while at university, still an undergraduate, I was published by the English Academy of South Africa. Professor Martin Orkin, editor of its English Academy Review described me then ‘one of the most exciting new young poets’. I went on to be a bi-monthly columnist for the largest national newspaper and took on editing roles at design and lifestyle magazines. In 1989 I was commissioned by the Dept of African Literature to edit a collection of essays in honour of a well known African author although my name never appeared on the actual book when it was published. In 1993 I was forced to leave South Africa as the nationalist government shut my life down, making it impossible for me to remain. I left for Switzerland where I started over from scratch. Over the next decade I collaborated with orchestras, singers, conductors and international institutions. I worked on award-winning documentary films and wrote my first novel.
In 2002, I moved to Italy and while raising three young daughters, launched Literati Magazine online, published my debut poetry collections, Sexions; Selections from life and love, commissioned by Sam Smith, Jacobyte Books’ Select Six editor in 2005. My novel was optioned by well known South African poet, editor and publisher, Paul Wessels. In 2008, I was a speaker and panelist at the UN Gift Conference on Human Trafficking in Vienna and launched a ‘Dignity’ campaign in association with the Grossman Burn Foundation. For my critical essays on international terrorism, I was a TED Fellow nominee in 2009. In 2010, ebracce press published my poetry chapbook “Falling Slowly”; a collection exploring friendship and loss. It was a dedication to my best friend who committed suicide two days after her son’s eleventh birthday. Several poems were featured in the 100th edition of the Italian cultural journal Zeta Revista in 2012. Following my return to Switzerland in 2013, in November 2015, two German poems were featured as part of the Kunsthaus Zug’s 25th Anniversary celebratory exhibition.
Mario Susko is the 2015 recipient of Croatia’s highest cultural accolade, The Goran Wreath, for his lifetime contribution to the literary arts. Raised and educated during the communist era, he is a witness and survivor of the war in Bosnia. He moved to the US in 1993. His awards include; Nassau Review Poetry Award ( 1997, 2006), Premio Internazionale di Poesia e Letteratura, Nouve Lettere (1998), the 2000 Tin Ujevic Award for best poetry collection published in Croatia in 1999, and his poem Conversion was short-listed for the 2004 Forward Poetry Prize; – amongst a host of other accolades. His chapbook Rules of Engagement was also published by ebracce press, in 2009. Mario Susko is also known as a translator and editor of novels by Saul Bellow, William Styron, Bernard Malamud and poets, Walt Whitman, E.E. Cummings, amongst others. He teaches at Nassau Com. College, in Garden City, New York.