Turing – Runner up in 2014 #MatrixPoetryAwards Science Category

I’m delighted once again to have picked up honours at the 2014 MATRIX Poetry Competition. This year I was runner up in Category One, open to people with a science/technology background, with my poem “Turing“.

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The competition was judged and award presented by respected poet and retired academic Professor Ignatius (Iggy) McGovern. The Award ceremony was followed by a reading from his new book, “A Mystic Dream of 4” which is a sonnet sequence based on the life and times of the Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton.

The winner in the category was my good friend Fabian Campbell-West, who I work alongside at QUB’s ECIT Institute and Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), with his poem “Computer Coder’s Sonnet“.

My poem has Alan Turing as its subject. Turing was a mathematician, wartime code-breaker and pioneer of computer science. His contribution to the war effort and technology were only recognized recently due to the secret nature of the work, his prosecution for homosexuality and untimely death by suicide at the age of 41.

Much of the research carried out within CSIT on areas such as cryptography, algorithms and artificial intelligence can be traced directly back to his ground-breaking work back in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Once again here is my poem:

Turing

Celebrated for his passion, persecuted over love
In Bletchley Hut 8 he tackled Enigma
Breaking the ciphers and stemming the tide
Only science mattered, not social stigma

His bombe silenced bombs, he moved on
The genius visualised a machine in his mind
A device for computation, competing with men
His automatic computing engine, all seeing, blind

Without his intelligence, artificial or otherwise
Machine learning, algorithms, big data; unfathomable
As scientists, today, the evidence is clear
The debt of gratitude owed Turing is utterly incalculable.

Since writing the poem I have learned that a film called “The Imitation Game” based on Alan Turing’s life will go on general release in the UK on 14 November 2014. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and is directed by Morten Tyldum with a screenplay by Graham Moore, based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. You can view a trailer here:

Lucas

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Such a joy to spend precious time this morn,
With you my son, my middle born.

Ambling slowly along the Lagan,
When all of a sudden we should happen
Upon something, there high in the trees.
“What’s that up in the branches Lucas?”
Your wee head bobs and weaves for a jook as,
In a rustle of feathers and leaves a pigeon flees.

While the other’s are away at a party,
Outside the Lockkeeper’s our elevenses are hearty.
On your broad shoulders a shrewd wee head.
You eat the sausages and leave me the bread.

My wife Fiona asked me to write some poems about the boys. Here’s the first titled ‘Lucas’. I sketched it out in my mind as I walked and ran and joked about with Lucas this morning along the Lagan tow path.

We said hello to happy dogs, hunted ducks, spied a moorhen and ate a sausage butty out in the sun at the Lockkeepers. All in all a pretty perfect morning.

Yes or No #indyref #shortpoems

Yes or no, what way will it go?
For the pollsters it’s a mystery
Who’ll be on the wrong side of history
Remember, wherever we draw the borders
On these isles we’re all sisters and brothers

Here’s hoping, your eyes are open
So fare thee well, decide your future
No matter the outcome apply a suture
To heal the wounds, don’t let them fester
A united people will fair better

Make #poetry

There is no more honourable thing
Than to hew, and shape, and build, and make
To break
Sweat
In the pursuit of something real
Tangible
Tactile
Something that will heal

Our modern ills and lethargy
Brought about by the tools
That make us fools
Rather than freeing our time
To find
Ourselves
We slouch and flick
An impulsive tic
Addicted to the screen

Always a yearning
Relearning
The trades
Forefathers practised
Resurrecting the craftsman gene
Coursing through the veins
To leave a mark
On this world
A story to be told
Some thing to have, and behold.