UA grad Anna Pulley shares her thoughts on new lesbian haiku book, why she's qualified to tell you what not to do in life
Illustration by Kelsey Beyer. "The Lesbian Sex Haiku Book (with Cats!)," written by UA alumna Anna Pulley, features over 150 of Pulley's haikus centering around how two girls make love and fall in love.
Anna Pulley, a writer, tweeter and UA graduate, has found remarkable success with the publication of her work, "The Lesbian Sex Haiku Book (with Cats!)."
It is not just about lesbians, not just about sex and not really about cats (though they beautifully grace many pages), but is a collection of haiku framing the life of young people with various sexual orientations navigating the world's many hurdles.
Pulley studied creative writing and gender and women's studies at the UA and now lives Oakland. She freelances full-time while she works on a second book of essays and a travel project with VICE in Jamaica.
Pulley also hopes to schedule a reading next semester in Tucson, where she was born and raised.
Pulley's father, who she called her unofficial publicist, shared her book with the Daily Wildcat, and apparently all around Tucson. She answered a few questions to give a glimpse into what led to her unique collection of poems.
DW: At what time in your life did you come out and did you find yourself accepted?
Pulley: I was 20—a sophomore. I think it was much easier to come out in college than in high school, though that's changed a lot in the last 10 years or so, for the better.
My folks were pretty great about it. I even wrote a haiku about coming out, though it's not in the book:
Me: Wearing thrifted military cargo shorts.
My folks: Yeah, we know.
Has your book had any negative reception?
Not really, which is crazy to me because I spend a lot of time on the internet, and we all know the internet tends to be mostly depressing, cynical and snarky, with the occasional heartwarming post about interspecies animal friendships.
Interestingly, the "hate" I get on Twitter, in terms of haiku, is always like, "YOU'RE ONE SYLLABLE OFF YOU CALL YOURSELF A POET?"
If you ever find yourself arguing with a stranger on Twitter about whether "fire" is one syllable or two, it's time to get off the internet.
But yes, the press for the book has been astounding.
Tegan and Sara posted about it on Instagram. And so did Jennifer Tilly on Twitter, who starred in the movie, "Bound." It's been so lovely to see such a weird, niche little book make its way into the world.
How exactly did you become her haiku highness?
I was writing them to overcome writer's block and heartache. But I was also doing social media for Mother Jones magazine and was on Twitter literally all the time, so the intersection of all those things came together nicely.
Twitter is actually part of the reason I got a book deal in the first place, as well. So, full circle and all that.
Do you continue to write haiku?
I do. I can't stop now. Mostly I post emo-love haiku on Instagram because it's such a habit. I think in haiku. Here's a recent one:
These sheets--so stained with
your memory--I almost
mistook them for skin.
I might do a more earnest, serious haiku book someday. But for now they exist as little nuggets of angst and nostalgia.
Have you always written poetry?
Only when trying to woo women. I'm mostly an essayist and journalist. I never thought I'd write an entire book of poetry, though perhaps it was inevitable since I seem to be crossing off a lot of lesbian clichés in my life.
I love poetry though, and poetic language—it's the most heart-rending form of expression to me. And haiku especially because it conveys so much meaning in so few words.
How did you get started writing and find the confidence to take on the sex and relationship columning?
I was lucky in that I never wanted to do anything else with my life. I knew I'd be a writer since I was about three [according to my mother]. I'm glad it's working out because I have very few other marketable life skills.
You know, I don't know that anyone thinks they'd be good at writing an advice column—I think we're all terrified when we start. It's pretty audacious, right? To think you can solve people's life dilemmas. That said, I got my MFA in life mistakes so I feel fairly qualified to tell people what NOT to do. There's a lot of wisdom to be found in failure.
I notice the tendency in your book to portray lesbians as more socially/environmentally responsible. Is this true?
You know, they actually are! According to a Grist study in 2011, lesbians/gays are more eco-friendly and interested in sustainability than [heterosexuals]. Something to brag about at dinner parties, surely.
Could you brag a bit about your partner, kitty illustrator Kelsey Beyer?
She's probably best known for being the unofficial visual documentarian of the Bay Area's longest-running, all-girl orgy, Girl Pile. But she does lots of other stuff as well.
She's doing illustrations for the VICE piece I mentioned above, so be on the lookout for that. And she recently made symbolic vagina buttons out of our book's end pages, including cat, beaver, little man in the canoe, box, taco, catcher's mitt, peach and magic carpet.
She's one of the most talented people I know and she didn't balk at all when I asked her to draw cats in sexually awkward poses.
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