The Lesbian Sex Haiku Book (with Cats!) Is a Hilarious Tribute to Queer Women (and Cats)

Author Anna Pulley tackles the ins and outs of lesbian life with humor and haikus.

In 2010, Anna Pulley’s life fell apart. The Oakland author’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer, her fiancée broke up with her, and she found herself struggling with a profound case of writer’s block. “Up until that point, [writing] was how I understood the world,” she said in a recent interview. “It was really horrible to suddenly not be able to do it.”

At the time, Pulley’s job required frequent use of Twitter. And she had just begun a four-year romance with a married woman who lived on the other side of the country. Inspired by Twitter’s 140-character limit and the tumult of her new relationship, Pulley started writing haikus. “I was trying to get my groove back,” Pulley explained. “Once I started … it just sort of took off.” Now, nearly five hundred of Pulley’s haikus have been compiled in The Lesbian Sex Haiku Book (with Cats!), which was released this week by Flatiron Books.

While the book’s title only explicitly references sex and cats (the book is chock-full of cat illustrations by Pulley’s partner, Kelsey Beyer), The Lesbian Sex Haiku Book‘s eight sections traverse a huge swatch of emotional terrain, from flirting and dating to breaking up and making up. Pulley is an experienced advice columnist, and her insights into the trials and tribulations of queer dating, sex, and relationships are hilariously accurate — sometimes to an uncanny extent. (Full disclosure, Pulley was also the Express’ managing editor at one point, although I never worked with her).

In one haiku, Pulley writes: Lesbian sex is/like water polo — no one/really knows the rules. Any queer woman who has been asked one too many times about the exact mechanisms of her sex life is sure to appreciate Pulley’s tongue-in-cheek approach to demystifying what she calls “the ins and ins and some outs” of lesbian sex.

Pulley says her writing process is varied. “Often, I’ll have an emotion I want to convey … other times, I’ll have a theme [in mind],” she explained. One set of themed haikus explores what the Fifty Shades of Grey series would look like if a queer woman had written it. Pulley’s reimagined titles include prospects like “Fifty Shades of Buffet,” in which Two ladies give new/meaning to the phrase ‘all you/can eat.’ Then they nap.

Another set of haikus filters real-life lesbian porn titles through a more realistic lens, like “Hot MILFs engage in a steamy clam photo sesh,” where One arranges bread/while the other gets the best/Instagram angle. Across from this haiku is a full-page illustration of two cats arranging a plate of clams, a framed picture of their four-cat family hung on the wall behind them.

Oakland artist Kelsey Beyer’s delightfully subversive feline illustrations (think tabby cats clutching sex toys) are an apt accompaniment for Pulley’s uproarious poems. Pulley always knew she wanted the book to be illustrated but wasn’t sure how to best visually represent hundreds of three-line poems. Coincidentally, Beyer had already been drawing lesbian-themed cats for friends’ birthday cards when Pulley proposed that she illustrate the book. As Beyer explained, the idea quickly fell into place: “I just asked [Anna], ‘What if we did the whole thing with cats?'”

While much of the book’s humor, including the scandalous feline illustrations, is surely accessible to a general audience, Pulley made it clear that The Lesbian Sex Haiku Book was written with queer women in mind. “A lot of the jokes are going to make sense if you’ve ever been in a relationship, but there are definitely some that you’re not going to understand [as a straight person] unless you have a lot of queer friends or for some reason love The L Word,” she said.

This exclusivity gives the book a refreshing insider’s edge. It’s rare to find books written by and for queer women, and it is rarer still to find lesbian stereotypes reclaimed for the purpose of relatable punchlines rather than used to reinforce narrow ideas about queer identity. Pulley hopes to change this. “[One] stereotype is that lesbians aren’t funny and I think that that’s absurd,” she said. “[The book] is a counterpoint to that.”

Beyond its entertainment value, Pulley also hopes that the book will foster a sense of camaraderie among its readers. “I want people to feel a sense of … ‘Oh yes, that’s absolutely happened to me,’ a sense of, ‘Yes, I relate to that,'” Pulley explained. “Also, I really want women to start asking other women out … It’s sort of a call to action in that way.”

For any queer women confused as to how to heed Pulley’s call to action, she has a haiku for that: Introduce yourself/using the words ‘witch,’ ‘poet,’/’grad school,’/or ‘co-op.’

If all else fails, you can always bring up your cats.


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