Around 2008—a moment of accelerated societal change in Finland—the emergence of a cultural scene in non-official languages instilled the idea of what would later become Sivuvalo. The Peruvian-Finnish poet Roxana Crisólogo set out to document the presence of foreign artists and writers who brought along a pre-existing body of work and created new art for a new home country. The association’s name was coined in this stage and represents those early efforts to foster a literary scene in other languages additional to Finnish and Swedish.
The organization of multilingual events offered a first means of entry for many incoming writers. The Maailman kirjat book fair opened its doors for many readings featuring Latin American literature. This stage was also marked by the collaboration with the Sweden-based project Poesia con C, which translated some of these writers into Swedish.
In 2013 Sivuvalo was awarded a working grant by Kone Foundation, which would be renewed for the two following years. Daniel Malpica joined the team in 2014 and contributed with the organization of several events centered in multimedia. With Tomi Purovara as CAISA director, Sivuvalo was assigned an office space in the cultural center’s premises, out of which it continued its promotion of literature in Arabic, Russian, Spanish, Persian, and Kurdish, among other languages. Around this time, other writers such as Zoila Forss and Payam Abdolsamani collaborated in the organization’s endeavors. Aya Shalabi contributed as the Arabic-language advisor.
In 2017 translator and Tampere University professor Anne Ketola joined Sivuvalo’s efforts. This period was characterized by events straddling experimental music and poetry. With Kesäyliopisto, Sivualo organized a Finnish poetry series representing different source languages and countries of origin. Collaborators previously mentioned in this summary, as well as new faces—such as Uzbekistani poet Hamdam Zakirov—participated. During that year, Sivuvalo was awarded with the Nuori Voima Prize on account of its endeavors to bring together writers from different backgrounds and languages in Finland.
In 2018, Crisólogo, Malpica and Forss curated and translated ROAĐĐI (Rosa Boreal), a Spanish-language anthology of Sami poetry, edited by poet Yaxkin Melchy Ramos in Mexico City. At this point, Sivuvalo began its cooperation with Nordic partners such as the group of writers residing in Malmö, Sweden, which spawned several events in both countries and different kinds of artisanal publication projects.
The association was officially incorporated under Finnish law in 2018. Shortly after, the Russian-born poet and translator Polina Kopilova joined the ranks, and the Säkeenkaari project expanded the association’s activities to the promotion of writers in Finnish cities outside Helsinki. Cooperation with other literature collectives such as Runokuu (Helsinki), Runoviikko (Turku), Runeberginviikko (Pietarsaari) was also initiated.
In 2019 Mexican poet and translator José Luis Rico joined the ranks, fostering Sivuvalo’s return to a focus on translation, literary curatorship, and the creation of opportunities for the professionalization of foreign-language writers.
In 2020, with the funding of the Finnish Arts Council (TAIKE- Taiteen edistämiskeskus) and the cooperation of the University of Helsinki and the Embassies of Spain, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil, among others, the festival Maailmasta toiseen was launched to consolidate the visibility of Iberian languages in Finland’s literary landscape.
During this time, the Baltic Humanoids poetry series was also launched, with the purpose of stringing together different postmodern and posthuman poetical explorations scattered around Finland and the Baltics. So far it has included the Spanish and English translations of Finnish poets Kati Neuvonen and Sini Silveri, Hamdam Zakirov’s Russian-language poetry, and Saad Hadi’s Arabic short stories. The series made its on-stage debut during Runokuu in 2021, with the participation of the aforementioned writers.
Sivuvalo currently aims to create a network spanning the Nordic countries. It has also begun a more intense promotion of Finnish poetry abroad, with the coming publication of Sini Silveri’s award-winning Titaanidisko in Mexico, sponsored by FILI, the Finnish center for literary translation.
Interns: Teo Aiha (2021-2022), Sofia Sandqvist (2020)
Finnish language proof-reader: Emma Toukonen