I’ve never met anyone who actually ordered something from the beloved in-flight publication, SkyMall. But, I’d like to.
My affection for the SkyMall catalog was plain and simple. With an inability to focus on any one thing during a flight, reading chapters of a book was out. Reading what other people were reading could be interpreted as creepy (sorry again Janis, wherever you are). So, to find a SkyMall catalog tucked away in the seat pocket brought me joy. The products were unique, sometimes odd, and always left me quietly snort-laughing for half-an-hour or so as I sat wedged between two people in the dreaded middle seat.
“If there is any piece of writing that defines our culture, I submit it’s the SkyMall catalog,” author Bill McKibben wrote in a 2006 essay in Orion magazine. “To browse its pages is to understand the essential secret of American consumer life: That we’ve officially run out not only of things we need, but even of things we might plausibly desire.”
One of their best-selling items was “Bigfoot: The Garden Yeti Statue.” Yes, it’s a thing. Not only did they offer unusual gifts any business man would want to order for his wife’s belated birthday, their descriptive copy of the items made anyone want to believe.
For example, a description of the Pierogi Christmas Ornament once offered:
“Our finely crafted and tastefully decorated ornament is sure to become a family heirloom.”
Translation: “Just some brittle, half-moon-shaped brown wad? No siree. This is something special. Trust us, she’ll love it. Your future grandchildren will thank you. This could be your legacy… For $7.99 plus shipping and handling.”
And while she’s gazing adoringly at the sure-to-be-heirloom, you could be sitting in your easy-chair wearing the SkyMall helmet that promises to regrow your hair with lasers. It’s a great time to be alive!
Yet, all good things must come to an end, and sadly, the in-flight catalog full of wonder came to an end when the parent company filed for bankruptcy. The last issue found its way to airplane seat pockets in April 2015.
Although another company purchased SkyMall and kept its online presence, their products are no longer quite the same offbeat merchandise we’ve come to love (like a waterbed for a cat). But if you’re looking for a regular old window mattress for your feline furrever-whatever, you can still count on them to deliver.
Try It: Ode to SkyMall
Take a trip back to the golden age of flying— with a catalog. Are you one of the millions of airline passengers who found delight within the pages of SkyMall? What was the strangest product you remember seeing? Imagine you are one of these peculiar gadgets or home decor oddities and write a poem about your life. Or pretend you are the customer who orders that strange product (you should be proud if you really did), and write about the human side of the merchandise. You can challenge yourself by writing a poem in the form of an ode, or just wing it (Ha! Get it?).
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here is a poem from Rick we enjoyed:
Myth of Wings
It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
― Leonardo da Vinci
It is not enough to merely leave the ground.
You know this—what you imagine is not real.
A dark fish leaps. Armor softens
into flight—yet, the sea still pools in a raven’s wing.
The bent world turns impossibly.
Even angels are drawn to its cage,
but sleights of mind, failed in the light of day.
In only dreams are we meant to fly.
Listen: in the frail air
above the earth, where all cries are whispers,
the falcon, feathered hyphen, rises,
vanishes in the illusion of morning blue.
Ask yourself, what is this, if neither wing nor eye?
—by Rick Maxson
Photo by Benson Kua. Creative Commons via Flickr.
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland