Login Register

Pioneering US poetry slam artist Jamie DeWolf and great grandson of Scientology founder speaks about how form helped save him from destruction

Jamie, 37, will tear up the stage at Huddersfield's Parish when he hosts a no holds barred event tomorrow night

He is one of Scientology’s biggest critics.

He certainly had some of the biggest insights into it, after all, he is L Ron Hubbard’s great grandson.

But his turbulent past is the very thing that has helped Jamie DeWolf to become one of USA’s most pioneering slam poets.

And tomorrow he will galvanise a new generation of performance artists in Huddersfield, when he encourages them to the stage at The Parish on Kingsgate, with their own mix of rhymes, poetry, theatre, hip hop and stand up.

Jamie, 37, hopes the event and workshops will help others express themselves in the same way that he’s spearheaded in his hometown of Oakland, California.

Performance poetry is the art that has helped him to ‘find sanity’ in his own life, which has been shaken by the effect of cults and devout religion.

He said: “It’s incalculable how being Hubbard’s great grandson and the devout form of baptism that was imposed upon me by my mum as a way to escape Scientology has impacted upon me.

“I was in a very self destructive and suicidal place when I was growing up but always performed poetry as a way of finding some sort of expression.”

He found himself going to open mic sessions but it was only when he found poetry slams that he came into his own.

“I experienced a lot of anger and some of what I performed was too abrasive for regular mics. At slam events, they couldn’t kick me out even though I got ranked last and because I was a stubborn b*****d the competition made me better.

“It also made me aware of how my words could set the mood of an entire room.”

But it wasn’t until 2011 that he let Scientology and the impact it had on his family find its way into his live sets, with his poem called The God and The Man.

“It was about a decade since one of my poems was put onto the internet. That time Scientology’s private investigators came around to my house immediately– it was exactly what people had warned me would happen.

“But when I performed The God and The Man it was different. A lot had changed in 10 years–nowadays they’re so busy putting out 10 million fires and their empire is in turmoil, which is really exciting.

“I think something just broke in me and thought I’d just tell my family’s story after being filled with a sense of dread that I was putting myself in danger for so long.

US slam poet Jamie DeWolf at The Parish, Kirkgate, Huddersfield.

“I owed it to my granddad, whose life was destroyed when he spoke out about the damage Scientology was doing to people.

“It’s something I long tried to avoid talking about but, with people being aware of who I am, the least I can do is tell the truth.”

A world away from traditional poetry recitals, poetry slams, which take the form of an onstage lyrical battle, found popularity in the US in the 1980s and are redefining the art for a whole new generation.

It is a form that Jamie uses to help people young and old find their voice in a world defined by social codes.

His poetry slam nights, such as one called Tourettes Without Regrets and workshops have taken over Oakland and he now travels all over the world.

As part of his visit he spent a day with Kirklees Youth Offending team on Church Street.

“Too often we ignore what young people have to say and they’re not asked to express themselves authentically– people are shoved into writing essays and taught how to speak.

“That’s why bringing slam poetry to kids empowers them and encourages them to think about what they want to in a way that they want–it’s an escape route from whatever life has thrown at them.

“It makes them aware of another part of themselves that they can take control of and master– It turned my destructive habits into something successful.

“The great thing about slam poetry is that it’s writing without pretension– you can use any lyrical form in any mix to help you express yourself the best.

“The problem with poetry as a form is that most people associate it with being too refined, elitist and sometimes antiquated.

“Whereas slam poetry is about letting everyone get up on stage and celebrating different voices and perspectives–it’s taken the form and made it into something viable for today, which makes it exciting.”

Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices created by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, beginning in 1952 as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics. Hubbard characterised Scientology as a religion, and in 1953 he incorporated the Church of Scientology in Camden, New Jersey.

  • Jamie will be hosting PoetrySlam at The Parish, 28 Kirkgate, HD1 1QQ, at 7.30pm. Entry is £3 or £1.50 concessions. Poets are invited to perform their work, with a £50 prize for the winner, judged by the audience.


Doug Thomson
Huddersfield Town correspondent
Chris Roberts
Huddersfield Giants correspondent
Louise Cooper
Crime correspondent
Nick Lavigueur
Health Correspondent
Joanne Douglas
Local Government Correspondent
Linda Whitwam
Education Correspondent
Henryk Zientek
Business Correspondent
Martin Shaw
Mirfield Correspondent