Partner Sirkka Meriluoto

Queer Places:
Hietaniemi Cemetery Helsinki, Helsinki Municipality, Uusimaa, Finland

Helvi Juvonen.jpgHelvi Juvonen (5 November 1919, Iisalmi, Northern Savonia – 1 October 1959) was a Finnish writer and recipient of the Eino Leino Prize in 1957.[1] She was a lesbian liric poet who earned her living variously as a teacher, bank clerk, and translator. Living in Helsinki where she gathered a literary circle of like-minded friends including the lesbian poet Mirkka Elina Rekola, Juvonen wrote poetry that was inspired both by religious mysticism and by a particular attitude to the nature of universe. Although known to be lesbian, her sexual identity had to remain hidden since homosexual acts, whether between men or women, were illegal in Finland until 1971.

Juvonen's parents were clothing retailer Juho Petterinpoika Juvonen and Impi Maria Liimatainen. Juvonen wrote her first poems already in her school years, and her mind poet was Emily Dickinson. Juvonen began her studies in Finnish and literature at the University of Helsinki. During the war years, Juvonen had trouble finding a rental apartment in Helsinki, and she had to return to Iisalmi for a while in 1942. Juvonen, who suffered from severe malnutrition and weighed only 43 kilograms the following year, was in a mental hospital for a while. Since 1949, she lived with Aila Meriluoto's sister, Sirkka Meriluoto, until her death. In 1951 Juvonen travelled with Mirjam Polkunen to Italy, where she visited Rome and Florence. Juvonen's illnesses hampered her ability to work, but in the mid-1950s her financial situation began to improve when she received the State Literature Prize for her poetry Rock Rock. In addition, she received grants from the Academy of Finland. Juvonen also made additional income through translation work and writing for Parnasso and the Finnish Social Democrat. However, she was plagued by headaches, depression and illnesses caused by malnutrition and poor living conditions, which were also reflected in the production. In 1959, Juvonen died of kidney failure caused by long-term painkiller use approximately one month before her 40th birthday. She dictated her last poems to Sirkka Meriluoto at the hospital.

She is buried in the Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki.[2]


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