Jessica Laser has given her generation a voice and a name in this masterful, funny, and heartbreaking collection, The Goner School. Members of this school, despairing and hopeful, count themselves among the self-aware, trauma-informed inheritors of a warming, warring planet. Childhood, the gym, plant medicine ceremonies, PhD programs, Jews, evangelicals, everyone you’ve slept with, Lake Michigan, the Bay Area, William James, and Taylor Swift may seem incongruous, but they all take place in one world from which, try as we might, there is no escape.

“Jessica Laser’s The Goner School is a beautifully uncanny book about, ultimately, knowledge: the rituals by which we exchange it and the alchemy by which it passes into wisdom. These poems will sharpen your intellect, tutor your senses, and enlarge your vision of your own life.”—Maggie Millner, author, Couplets: A Love Story

“Jessica Laser is one of the most compelling spiritual poets writing today. To read these poems is to share a crisis with real stakes—they have both vulnerability and presence, and they are worthy of Frost’s analogy about the best verse: ‘Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, the poem must ride on its own melting.’”—Katie Peterson, author, Fog and Smoke

“In The Goner School, Jessica Laser is both poet and playwright discovering the emotional inheritances that come with circular movement. ‘You could dim us,’ she points out in the title poem; but she never lets that happen. Instead, she turns on the strobe light and invites her readers to witness the process of processing what it means to get close. Poem after poem, she builds the world then blocks the stage. We become contributors to a community. Season ticket holders. Scene partners. Cohorts. Friends. In ‘The Breakfast-Eaters’ she asks, ‘How does life begin again?’ and then—Laser starts the scene over. Tells a newer truth; a clearer truth; trusting her rhythms to formulate in real time.The Goner School is a wild ride full of fun, ferment, and fortitude; a place where even the mundane is miraculous.”—Kendra Allen, author, Fruit Punch

“William James”

As I enter the station, my first heart stops.

I begin, chopping the foot of a tree.

Its branches are unmoved by my act.

Its leaves murmur. Peacefully as ever,

I do violence to the foot of a man.

I hear the conductor calling “all aboard!”

If I stumble as I run

If a cinder enters my eye


I enter the station. 

The conductor calling “all aboard!”

Stops my first heart stopping 

My second heart beating

The foot of a tree, the foot

Of a man. I hear violence calling

Its branches unmoved.

They are moved, I insist.

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Publication Details

Publication Date
96 pages
Trim size
6 x 9 inches