The Poplarville Storytellers Guild
“Long before people had written language, storytellers taught laws, faith and history to the people through the spoken word. Later, traveling minstrels brought the stories out into the world as teaching became entertainment. Sometimes the stories grew with each telling, becoming more heroic and fantastic as they were retold.
Modern storytelling looks at more than tall tales, and the Poplarville Storytellers Guild keeps the oral tradition alive. Members of the group interact with public groups to share entertaining, inspiring and informative stories of days gone by. Whether the stories talk about growing up in south Mississippi or relate details of life in other areas, the storytellers engage their audiences with adventures and lessons.
The Poplarville Storytellers Guild is the oldest storytelling group in the south, according to president Mary Etta Moody, founded in 1982. Being of longstanding doesn’t mean stodgy, though. Members use social media to engage the public and stay in touch. With a Facebook page and YouTube videos, the storytellers connect with an audience beyond the Deep South.
The group takes their stories to a wide variety of venues, as requests from the community come. Whether a single speaker goes on assignment or a group congregates for a marathon session, the storytellers take the tradition of oral history to their audiences.
Members of the group come from many age groups and walks of life. Some are retired from careers; others are currently working. All see storytelling as a social tool. Members include farmers, teachers, broadcasters, veterinarians and salespeople, all ready to share their stories.
The Poplarville Storytellers Guild participates in two free events each year: The Poplarville Blueberry Jubilee and Tellabration.
The Blueberry Jubilee takes place on the second Saturday of June each year. The night before the festival features music and storytelling in downtown Poplarville as the Guild kicks off the event. Attendees can bring their own chairs and gather behind the Courthouse for the entertainment. In the event of rain, the festivities move into the Methodist Youth Building of First United Methodist Church at 708 Julia Street, just a few blocks away.
On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the group participates in a worldwide day of storytelling with Tellabration, the international celebration of storytelling. Guests can enjoy a free evening of stories and fellowship held in the Fellowship Hall of First United Methodist Church. Refreshments are served. The 2015 Poplarville session was broadcast on Periscope, a first for the Poplarville group.
The group meets on the first Tuesday of the month in the Methodist Youth Building at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are open to the public and visitors are welcome, whether they come to tell a story or listen to those being told. Refreshments and laughter mark the evening, as stories old and new fill the room. Follow them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/PoplarvilleStorytellers/) for the latest information on upcoming events. To request storytellers for your function, contact Mary Etta Moody at 601-795-2730.
(Adapted from a story which originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Southern Senior magazine.)”