birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


Have you met Tonja? She’s our lawyer and leader (de facto) of Ten Poets. I hang out with them now and then, and have a couple of published poems due to their excellent influence. 

I knew Tonja and Mark through the legal community before we moved in next door to them. Our house, with two young daughters had twice the square feet of theirs, which held them, three boys, and a little girl. Being Tonja and Mark, reasonably well off lawyers, and eccentric to the roots of their eyeteeth, they hired one of the town’s best architects to design a lovely unbuildable house for them on a lot in the best downtown residential area. After a couple of years, it was built, and they moved there. For a while, one of their sons was raising rabbits for food in the back yard, but mostly they host dinner parties with flowers, candles, music, and excellent food (but no rabbits).

Tonja’s on the tall side. She’s the striking well built but slender woman with black shoulder-length hair done in a fifties style, wearing a crisp white shirt and pleated plaid skirt (or perhaps black jeans and a conservative sweater). She wears the red lipstick that goes with the era, and looks as if she just invented this as a fresh new fashion that we should all be following. When she’s reading at Poetry Parley, she could be a beatnik; or a hippie, or a turn of the century distinguished woman, in that same outfit, depending on whether she’s reading Snyder or Neruda, or Gerard Manley Hopkins.

She grew up in Philly and graduated from Harvard, in the second or third class of women allowed to do so. She and Mark met while they were working in an Alaskan senator’s office in Washington, D.C., and have been inseparable since. They hike in the Dolomites, lose cameras on rafting trips in the Grand Canyon, and say Lutheran graces at meals – everyone holds hands. 

She practices estate law, domestic law, divorce law. It’s a smallish niche in this medium-sized city, and she is one of a very few highly-regarded lawyers in the field. Her Harvard degree is on the wall behind her desk, along with her law degree, and her admission to the Alaska Bar. Well-groomed healthy plants in handmade pots share wood and glass tabletops with carefully curated small shells and driftwood. Her poems are among the most sensual and surprising of any in the poetry group, and her bills to us for legal work are impeccable examples of clarity and reasonableness. This is Tonja.


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