In September, O’Neill Thorn was diagnosed with breast cancer; she recently ended a series of chemotherapy treatments. To help raise funds for her medical bills, supporters will host a benefit at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, on January 12. And O'Neill Thorn, who is now in recovery, will be there to accept well-deserved accolades.
Since the early ’90s, O’Neill Thorn has done everything from teaching writing workshops in juvenile detention centers to publishing a bi-monthly poetry-events calendar, Poiesis. In 2003, she established Art From Ashes, which has provided artistic outlets for more than 11,000 struggling youth, according to the organization's website. It's been recognized as one of the of the top arts programs in the nation four times by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities; it also earned O'Neill Thorn a Westword MasterMind award.
Longtime friend and fellow poet SETH credits O'Neill Thorn with uniting this city's poetry community. “You have the Beat poets, you have what I call the coffeehouse poets, you have the academic poets, you have poets who are part of poetry societies — and we all work in our own vacuum,” SETH says. But O’Neill Thorn has incorporated all of these groups, including Denver's popular slam poets, in the festivals she organizes, he adds.
“One of the things that I picked up very early in her career is her commitment to the power of the spoken word,” SETH says. “I do remember her once saying that she considered poets to be the prophets of our day, which is absolutely true.”
The event includes a raffle; Colorado poets and authors are invited to donate two copies of a book or CD for the cause. One will go into raffle prizes; the other will go to O'Neill Thorn. Donations for the raffle are still being accepted here.
“She is a beloved comrade and friend to not only us, but countless people whose lives she has touched,” Frechette says. “We are happy to help her get through this with abundant community love, support and respect."
The benefit starts at 8 p.m. Friday, January 12, at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street. Admission is free, but organizers are requesting a $15 donation. You can also contribute online; so far, over $5,000 has been raised on O'Neill Thorn's YouCaring account.