interview, poetry with Catherine O’Neill-Thorn, PJ

After the Columbine High School shooting, Catherine O’Neill-Thorn put her poetry curriculum to work, giving the otherwise traumatized students a voice, a creative outlet.  O’Neill-Thorn now leads Art from Ashes, a 10-year old organization that works directly youth facing difficult life circumstances “through creative expression and personal transformation,” including poetry and spoken word performance.

“A lot of our young people have never written poetry before,” said O’Neill-Thorn.  “They get the opportunity to tell their story, sometimes for the first time with a captive audience.”

This feature includes audio from a reading by a current student, “PJ.”  The Art from Ashes YouTube channel has more than 40 videos of current and former students at the mic.

A free poetry workshop for youth (13 -24 years of age) is held on Tuesday afternoons from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the McNichols Building, 144 W. Colfax, underwritten by Denver Arts and Venues.  Their official website is

O’Neill-Thorn closes the interview by reading a poem by 12-year old Ricardo, for whom English is a second language, “The Dance My Father Taught Me.”

Music on this feature is the title track from Anita O’Day’s Rules of the Road, and the John Stein Trio, “Booga Lou,” on the CD Green Street.

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