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Poetry Transcription Pizza Party

Birkbeck University of London

Poetry Transcription Pizza Party

Transcribe Arabic, Hindi, Kurdish and Urdu poetry, from useless and ugly old JPEGS into functional, searchable computer files that make international poetry more accessible online. Grab a drink, munch some pizza and meet likeminded language enthusiasts while you are at it.

Tofu is the line of empty boxes that sometimes replaces text online when a browser cannot understand the font or writing system being used. Since its inception, the Poetry Translation Centre and its website have been plagued by Tofu, as we work with so many different languages and writing systems. As a result, poems written in Arabic, Hebrew or Ethiopian and some other languages were posted to our website as JPEGS. This ugly sight is systematic of a wider issue: a western, Anglophone, bias on the internet.

Now Google and have developed Noto, a typeface designed to support all the world’s languages. The name Noto is a contraction of ‘No More Tofu’. So with the technical problem solved the PTC want go forward and convert all our poems into text files that look better, are easier to use and importantly, searchable. The final hurdle is that we are now faced with retyping around 200 poems in a range of different languages.

The best solution to this problem is to crowdsource the task out to London’s students who have a rich depth of language skills so the PTC is partnering with The Birkbeck College Applied Linguistics Society to run our first pizza-fueled poetry transcription workshop. If you can work in Arabic, Hindi, Kurdish and Urdu, or are just a language lover looking to get involved, please join us for this workshop.