PENDLETON - Poets abound in Pendleton this weekend, as the Oregon State Poetry Association holds its fall conference in the Pendleton Arts Center. This is the first time the organization has ventured east of Bend.

Three well-known poets highlight the conference: Oregon poets David Axelrod and Penelope Scambly Schott and from Washington state Tess Gallagher, marking the first time the organization has invited an out-of-state poet to its fall conference.

Events begin at 7 p.m. today with an informal gathering with light desserts and with readings Axelrod and Schott. Then at 8:15 a.m. Saturday several local poets, including Betty Husted, former English teacher at Blue Mountain Community College, and Kolin Craig, will read and welcome other OSPA members. Afterward Axelrod and Schott will hold separate workshops and in the afternoon Gallagher will read and answer questions.

Conference registration is $40 for OSPA members and $50 for nonmembers. Complete information, a schedule and a registration form can be found on the association's Web site, www.oregonpoets.org.

Workshops begin at 9:15 a.m. The well-published Schott will present a workshop to explore ethical and technical issues in poetry, such as are there stories that shouldn't be told and how to convert personal experiences into the reader's experience.

Axelrod is a professor of English at Eastern Oregon University and a finalist for the Oregon Book Award in Poetry. He will present the workshop "A Congress of Unruly Voices" where he contends poets' awe of the transforming power of nature frequently results in narrow and stale poetry. He will explore models for dealing with nature in poetry and ways to integrate their creative work into the larger field of human experience.

Gallagher has published her eighth book of poetry, "Dear Ghosts," a collection of elegies for her late husband, the short story writer and poet Raymond Carver, translations from the Romanian poet Liliana Ursu and a collaborative volume with Japanese author Jakucho Setouchi.

Other features of the program include open mike readings, a book table where attendees can display and sell their own books and the announcement of OSPA's Fall Poetry Contest prize winners.

Those arriving in Pendleton before the conference opens this evening can attend the opening reception for the exhibit of Mare Blocker's book art from 5:30-7 p.m. Conference events will begin immediately after the reception.

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