Our descent into Washington D.C. was overwhelming and luminescent, the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial glowing like beacons across the Potomac. We had an equally illuminating trip to our hotel, thanks to our taxi driver turned tour guide, and managed to somehow settle into a deep sleep. The next day we woke bright and early to register for the conference and drink some much-needed coffee. The two-block trek to get to Starbucks was somewhat troubling to this Pacific Northwesterner, who is used to having at least three coffee shops per city block. Annoyance aside, I was able to return caffeinated and happy, and our bright maze of a hotel was a welcoming sight against the biting cold. We interns split off toward the various discussions and readings that we had chosen, and all at once AWP had begun.
My first panel was a discussion on human rights from the perspective of several Iranian American women writers. They were brilliant individuals, each with one Iranian parent, and each with a uniquely personal story. The rich emotion of their fiction, memoirs, and poetry was truly moving. I attended several more readings inspired by this first one, most of which were focused on human rights and current environmental or political issues.
I also attended the SpeakPeace exhibit put on by the Wick Poetry Center. The WPC presented several Vietnamese and Iraqi children’s paintings which depicted visions of peace and war. The Center also compiled a series of poems responding to each painting. Students, veterans, and writers from across America participated. As a PowerPoint presentation displayed the artwork, a group of children and writers performed a dramatic reading of these inspiring poems. By the end there were few dry eyes left in the room. Still, I left the reading chatting with strangers about hope for the future, rather than despair for the past.