A Central Texas grass-roots literary event celebrated its 20th anniversary Thursday in Salado. Tablerock Festival’s Poetry and Prose Reading showcased a dozen invited readers, three poetry contest winners from Salado High School and the wit, energy and savoir-faire of host Thom Woodruff.

Woodruff, called “the world poet” by founder, producer, poet and playwright Jackie Mills, is a veteran versifier from Austin who honed his extemporaneous gifts throughout Central Texas, England and his native Australia. He is the co-founder of the Austin International Poetry Festival, coached students at Salado High School and rejuvenated the Temple Live Poets group.

More than 40 poets gathered in the backstage area at Tablerock’s Goodnight Amphitheater, noshing on veggie beef soup, cornbread and coffee, renewing friendships and trading literary news and gossip. Books, anthologies and poems filled a table, including this year’s “Cats & Dog Tales,” Tablerock’s annual anthology.

The cat and dog-themed poetry and prose ranged from the whimsical to the nostalgic, with most poets accenting humor rather than melancholy. Presentations included rhymed verse forms, some set to music and sung by the poet, use of alliteration, rhythm and regular meter — and there was free verse in abundance.

The poetry reading is one of many events on Tablerock’s calendar. Gospel singing get-togethers, band concerts, Halloween fright trail, a stage play of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and the nonprofit’s magnum opus, “Salado Legends,” penned by Mills and staged outdoors with 100-plus cast and crew members, keeps the festival’s 13 acres humming with activity.

The word “poetry” is derived from the Greek “poiesis” — meaning a “making,” and that is the theme Woodruff emphasized. Stepping onto the raised platform, he grabbed the microphone, smiled at the audience of poets, and proclaimed: “We love poetry, we love music and we love the art each of you has made in the past year.”

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