Butterfly Nebula


Butterfly Nebula

Laura Reece Hogan

The Backwaters Prize in Poetry Series

120 pages


October 2023


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2023


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2023


$17.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Gold Medal in Poetry for the 2024 Illumination Book Awards
2024 Catholic Media Association Book Award Honorable Mention in Poetry

Winner of the Backwaters Prize in Poetry, Butterfly Nebula reaches from the depths of the sea to the edges of space to chart intersections of the physical universe, the divine, the human, and the constantly unfolding experience of being “one thing in the act of becoming another.” This collection of poems teems with creatures and cosmic phenomena that vivify and reveal our common struggle toward faith and identity. The longing and metamorphosis of the human heart and soul are reimagined in an otherworldly landscape of firework jellyfish, sea slug, stingray, praying mantis, butterfly and moth, moon and star, and celestial events ranging from dark matter and Kepler’s Supernova remnant to a dozen classified nebulae. Our desire for purpose and renewal collides with the vast constellation of divine possibility in this collection, which invites the reader to enter a transformative world both deeply interior and embracing of the far-flung cosmos.

Author Bio

Laura Reece Hogan is the author of I Live, No Longer IO Garden-Dweller, and Litany of Flights.


Butterfly Nebula is a rare creation of song and scar, of vulnerability and eco-consciousness, of emotional complexity and simple witness. In a world where empathy is under threat of erasure, these poems show us how ‘dust become[s] the blood,’ how the heart can be a ‘universal symbol,’ and how ours is inherently a ‘liquid alphabet.’ These poems take responsibility for themselves while reminding us of our own responsibilities to the world and each other. There’s such sharpness to Hogan’s metaphors, such richness to the world she builds for us, both defining and pushing against the edges of our shared human experience. ‘It is said all flesh is grass’ and ‘that we are ashes / and to ashes we return,’ but Hogan knows the truth, uncertain as it may always be to us. ‘A prophet folded may appear to be dead,’ but in the world of Butterfly Nebula, nothing is ever truly dead. These poems choose to both celebrate and mourn everything they touch. Even their own ghosts. Even that greater truth that always remains just slightly out of reach, that she refuses to stop reaching toward.”—John Sibley Williams, author of Skin Memory

“Laura Reece Hogan’s work is unforgettable because it’s true, true the way Hopkins or Dickinson are true, who must bend words to tell the truth of what it feels like to be separate, all the while knowing there is more than separation to the story, more even to the stories than their beginnings and comings to an end. Hogan is one of the brilliant lights that only rarely comes along.”—David Keplinger, author of The World to Come

“Beautiful. Months after reading these gorgeous poems, that word surfaces each time I think about Butterfly Nebula. Beautiful in its spiritual reach, beautiful in its often odd and always exquisite imagery, and beautiful in its composition, Butterfly Nebula lifts us into the galaxy in one line and plunges us into the ocean the next. Hogan’s articulation of longing seduced me, her words voicing thoughts still vague in my heart. In ‘Soul Nebula,’ she writes: ‘You wonder / why the inside must be swept clear // so violently, / the aching cavities carved // by radiation.’ In the visionary tradition, she wrestles with life’s spiritual contradictions and looks to nature for answers: ‘the Elysia sea slug / sprouts a heart from just a head. This is your prescription.’ Inspired by laws of physics, the lyrebird, Lazarus, by stingrays, saints, and supernovas, Butterfly Nebula offers communion for all seekers. These are poems of praise, and they praise in their poetry.”—Christine Stewart-Nuñez, author of The Poet and the Architect

“Laura Reece Hogan’s Butterfly Nebula is a ‘prayer . . . of the whole body, / of clamor and catastrophe, of take me and make me, of chaos / and clarity.’ Hogan’s words ‘speak sky,’ their gravitational pull irresistible. With poems that whirl us through space; propel us across continents; hurl us through time and its tales; then plunge us deep into sea, woods, body, and faith, the author redefines metamorphosis. Astronomical, biological, ecological, theological, metaphorical: these ‘dark nebula[e]’ are ours, ‘cradling new stars.’ How dazzling the shine of these poems, how far-reaching the trek of their light.”—Marjorie Maddox, author of Begin with a Question

“In Butterfly Nebula Laura Reece Hogan gives us poems that begin in acts of radical seeing and observation, and in these detailed, effulgent poems, we go with the poet as she looks through telescopes, or through microscopes, is at sea, or on land, and then names, notes, and describes the staggering complexity of our natural world. The poems in this captivating book commingle science and faith, and rather than seeing these two pillars of understanding as contradictory, Butterfly Nebula shows us—through the tensile mechanics of poetry—just how human curiosity brings us closer to the divine.”—Mark Wunderlich, author of God of Nothingness

Table of Contents

I. Hydra
In Which I Pray for Stars
Longing as Dark Matter
Heart as Siphonophore
Heart Nebula
HR 6819 and the Lovesick Be Star
Eye as Firework Jellyfish
Psyche as Vampire Squid
The Dark Rift
Oyster Nebula
Sea Butterfly
Question Mark Butterfly
Trembling Aspen: Needle
Your Never and Always Ring of Fire
Via Negativa: New Moon
II. Microscopium
Butterfly Nebula
Prayer for Traversing the Eye
The Elysia Sea Slug
Soul Nebula
Leafy Sea Dragon
Playing with Tiger Sharks on the Missile Range
Manatee Nebula
Crab Nebula
Soul as Half Moon
Universal Law of Turbulence
On Finding the Atom Is Divisible
Petri Dish
The Most Tiny Quantity of Reality Ever Imagined
Moon Rust
III. Crux
Coalsack Nebula
The Blue Hour
Bow in the Clouds
A Small Good Friday Service at Notre Dame Cathedral
Holy Saturday
St. Teresa’s Pillow
Mary, Wife of Clopas
Ghost Nebula
On Neptune It Rains Diamonds
Super Supernova
Trembling Aspen: Twine
IV. Telescopium
Petition as Praying Mantis
Morpho Butterfly
Fear as Absent Mountain Lion
Hope as Alpha Centauri AB
The Mother Gives Us
Ophelia in Los Angeles
Comet NEOWISE, July 4th
Iris Nebula
Comma Butterfly
Sign of the Times
Terror Weather
Approaching the Event Horizon
Resilience as Daffodil
Between 50 and 51
Via Negativa: Corpse Flower
V. Phoenix
Fast Radio Bursts Detected Close to Earth
We Are All God’s Poems
Lazarus Rising
Phoenix at Padre Serra Church
Kepler’s Supernova Remnant
Eagle Nebula
Strawberry Supermoon
Heart as Honeycomb
Trembling Aspen: Stitch
Stingray Nebula
Keyhole Nebula
Kilonova as Composition
Persephone at the Turn
Blue Moon Butterfly


Gold Medal in Poetry for the 2024 Illumination Book Awards
2024 Catholic Media Association Book Award Honorable Mention in Poetry

Also of Interest