Writing Prompt: Ekphrastic odes to our stuff


Contributed by Michael Charboneau

Today I had an important realization: I’m not the President of the United States, but in a moment of Matrix-like clarity, I thought about all the tools and machines that surround me, and how strange it is that I’ve never thought about their importance. Once I started thinking about all those gadgets, I realized that I use them a lot – from the moment I wake up with my alarm clock to the moment I fall asleep watching Mad Men on my laptop.

According to the latest data from Statista.com, a media statistics website, I’m not alone. The average American now spends eleven hours a day using their various devices, and that’s just counting electronics.


I feel a little guilty about using the many tools that fill my life without bothering to stop and say thank you. This week’s writing prompt might be a good way to show my appreciation. This prompt is an attempt to make amends through ekphrasis, which is a fancy literary term for verbally describing a physical work of art.

Okay, so maybe my alarm clock isn’t a work of art, but you get the idea.

Write an ekphrastic ode to a tool, machine, or gadget that you use every day — anything from the spoon you ate your cereal with this morning to your ever-buzzing smartphone. For a good example of what an ode looks like, check out John Keats’ classic “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in which he ponders the beautiful images of an ancient Greek vase. Use your imagination to creatively describe what makes your chosen implement so great.