In the intro of The Lesbian Sex Haiku Book (With Cats!), Bay Area author Anna Pulley observes, "Like haiku and poetry in general, lesbians (and bisexuals, trans folk, queers, genderqueers, tenderqueers, heteroflexibles, and all womyn-loving wimmin) are frequently misunderstood." Over the course of the next 140 or so pages, Pulley and illustrator Kelsey Beyer proceed to illuminate the lesbian experience using 17-syllable poems and drawings of cats, and to great (and funny) effect. There's a section on determining whether you're a queer girl ("Do you own more than / one vest that your mother did / not purchase for you?"), one on being in a cohabitating lesbian relationship ("Talking at length on / identity politics / is foreplay to you") and, of course, one on the "ins and some outs" of lesbian sex: "There's not one right way / lesbians get it on. There / are, like, four at least."
The section on lesbian sex feels like the book's climax (pun intended) and for good reason. In her work as a sex and advice columnist for various publications, she was frequently confronted with questions about how lesbians "do it." "I couldn't believe it was still this great mystery," she says via email interview. "So I started to make fun of the question, first in advice columns, and later in haiku." During a period when she was managing social media at Mother Jones, and having just gone through a devastating breakup, Pulley used short-form poetry as a way out of a creative block that made writing anything longer too daunting. In 2014, she published her first series of lesbian sex haikus on The Toast.
According to Pulley, artist Wendy MacNaughton was originally going to illustrate the book, but when her schedule became to hectic, it worked out nicely that Pulley happened to be dating Kelsey Beyer, a talented illustrator in her own right. It was actually Beyer's idea to make all the illustrations of cats in the first place, a prospect that seemed funny until Pulley was confronted with one particular image, a fat tan-and-white tabby clutching an enormous vibrator, the iconic Hitachi Magic Wand (known in polite company as a "personal massager").
"I was initially unsure about because I thought it was too risque," Pulley says, "but now it's my favorite image and I'm so glad it's in the book."
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Ultimately, Pulley's funny, sarcastic take on what lesbian sex is and is not should be plenty educating, but she realizes she might still have to clear up some misconceptions. She wrote in our correspondence:
"For those who are still confused about it: First we make an offering to the Goddess. Then we walk counter-clockwise in a circle around a bowl of flax seeds while reciting lines from the Indigo Girls canon. Somewhere around the seventh rotation, our vaginas fuse together in spiritual and ecstatic union. Afterward, we drink rooibos tea and discuss prison reform."