Jana Lakash, slam poet and junior at Oberlin University, was found dead this past Saturday after forgetting to breathe during a performance of her poem, “(Un)discovered,” at an open-mic on campus. Lakash was 20 years old.
“It wasn’t nervousness,” said friend and fellow poet Sam Osby. “Jana knew that breathing would break her flow, so she didn’t breathe. That’s what it means to be an artist, an artist, making art, hanging on a wall hanging like a hangman like an apple on a tree.”
“It’s sad that our daughter died,” said Jana’s father, Jared Lakash. “But we’re happy that she didn’t compromise her integrity as a poet by pausing to breathe during her reading. The poems really require that kind of fast-paced, rambling quality we’ve come to expect from Jana. It’s kind of her signature.”
“Dr.” Kristophe, Lakash’s slam coach, was similarly impressed by his pupil’s resolve. “I couldn’t have performed it better myself,” he said of her death.
Lakash’s family mourned their daughter by reading a collection of her poems to a rapt faculty and student body at Oberlin’s annual Grand Slammed Poetry Slam. “Jana had just gotten to the part about her grandmother’s hands being frail when she died, so we figured that would be a good place for her parents to pick up,” said Lakash’s roommate Rosy, who sometimes performed alongside Lakash in their series of poems for two voices, Two Please in a Pod.
For parents Emilie and Jared Lakash, the experience was overwhelming. They read “(Un)discovered,” along with other crowd favorites “Moving/Moved,” “Once Upon a Thyme,” and “Beneath U.”
“It’s tragic, yes, but we must remember that Jana Lakash died for a reason,” said Kristpophe. “She died for slam poets everywhere. Every place every person every bird every tree every star…death.”