Birmingham's new Poet Laureate Giovanni Esposito tells Neil Connor how advice from an old friend helped him pick up the pieces following the collapse of his previous employer, MG Rover
With a name like Giovanni Esposito, it would be no surprise if people thought Birmingham's new Poet Laureate was a hairdresser and not a wordsmith.
But after chatting to Spoz - as he prefers to be called - for only a few minutes, you get the picture that the only 'wax' administered by this former Longbridge chassis worker is on his lyrics, not heads.
It could have been so very different for Spoz, who claimed to have spent a few weeks "wallowing around the house" following last year's collapse of MG Rover, where he had worked since he left school in 1980.
But the 42-year-old received a phone call from Birmingham's last Poet Laureate Richard Grant (aka Dreadlockalien), which inspired him to follow his childhood dream.
"I was gutted when it happened. You get stuck in a comfort zone. I was working, coming home with a fair amount of money, and then writing. But what did I have left when the work went?
"But then I had a phone call from my old friend Dreadlockalien. He said this could be the chance that I had always been waiting for.
"It was then that I decided to go out and do something about pursuing my main interest, writing poetry."
After attending a writing course at The Birmingham Post, Spoz decided to follow in the footsteps of his friend, who he had previously accompanied on many community projects aimed at engaging Birmingham youngsters in literature.
And since being named the new laureate last week, he has announced his intention to continue this 'community' theme throughout his year as Birmingham's 'prince of prose'.
A self-styled urban warrior, Spoz is aiming to create poetry for the masses in much the same way that he used to help mass produce cars.
There is little use for a lofty Rolls Royce style of verse if the objective is to bring this form of literature to those who were previously bored by poetry, or who felt it was too distant.
"I want to get the message out to kids that poetry is not boring. I want them to understand that those poets that they are introduced to in school do not represent poetry in its entirety.
"I love World War One poetry, I was brought up on it and some of my favourite poems come from that era.
"But children consider these poets to be ancient - and these are some of the most recent writers they are permitted to read.
"I want to get the message through to young people that poetry extends to rappers like Eminem, that Hip Hop has as much to do with with poetry as historic poets."
Spoz said that during the event in which he was announced as the new laureate, a group of his predecessors gave examples of their work which went "right over my head".
So with a background in what he calls "stand-up pub poetry", Spoz is aiming to bridge some gaps between art and the urban population.
And as his old poems have titles such as Dying for a dump in a car back from Cheltenham and I met Jesus in the Sea Queen fish and chip shop, he reckons he might have hit on the right formula.
Spoz has already appeared at Glastonbury and the Cheltenham Literature Festival with his comic brand of poetry. He is also resident poet for his beloved Birmingham City Football Club.
Identity Poem (A Job's Not Who You Are)
For twenty five years I was that man, That man who'd get up some time after six And take his biggest risk - cornflakes or Weetabix?
That man who fell out of bed and fell into work, Fell for the 'Rover', over the 'Merc'
And the 'Beamer' - 'cause they were for dreamers.
That man who'd got the beautiful house, The beautiful wife, the beautiful kids, I was a genius - yeah You should have seen us, Happy with my lot and everything I'd got, That I'd worked for with my job, called a career, The something that was getting me there - from here.
But I never got there.
Me and five thousand ex-Rover colleagues never got there!
Where ever there was, 'We know it isn't fair, Spoz, Our hands are tied, the management lied, Now don't scream and shout, But the light at the end of the tunnel's gone out'.
Understatement - I was dazed Understatement - I was confused Understatement - I was in shock But I was no stick of rock.
Cut me in half and it didn't say Rover - it was over! I was punch drunk, I was floored, But it was time to sever that umbilical cord.
Find a new identity The one I knew I was meant to be.
'Cause a job isn't who you are, it's what you do, There are bigger things in life that define the likes of me and you, Like that little fishy from your dad, The tiny egg from your mom, A sprinkle from a miracle and the two become one, You or me - see?
But that's just biology, It happens every day, Because your God and my God kind of made it that way. It's the trail you tread, not as a job but a vocation, From every nation and global location, That when mixed with your genes, no I.D. card can describe, The different identities from one common tribe.