Dear Forrest Gander,

When I first read your poem, I wondered why you would name your piece, “Passion & Risk,” if there was only risk presented at the time of Jose Cubero’s death. The death was not one of passion, but of anger present by the bull for years of abuse at the arms of matadores. Cubero’s heart was gored by the bull who attacked him only by instincts; however, when I read Cubero’s last words, I realized he did not expect to be killed by the only sport he loved and played since his youth. It was Cubero’s passion for this sport that led to his senseless death. It was his love for danger. It was his contempt for life. It was his carelessness and pride that lead him to trip and believe he was free from the cold grip of death. I wonder if he cried and plead with Death not to take him. Did he stare at the bull? Who went to his funeral?

Furthermore, I wanted to ask what was your inspiration for this poem. Were you at the event at the time of his death? The details of his death in the few lines were captured beautifully, and I wonder if only a spectator could only describe the scene. The poem was so detailed that I was transported to the world of Spain, where my grandfather was born and emigrated from to recount the tales of the strongest matadores of his time. He was a writer. He wrote for a Spaniard newspaper in Cordoba. He moved to the United States for better opportunities and achieve the American Dream for his 4 children. When I was younger, he always described matadores as warriors who were masters in their field of entertainment. He would always cheer on his favorites: Antonio Ordonez and his family legacy. I never did understand my grandfather’s passion for this sport—it was disgusting and unnecessary. However, I did not understand that my grandfather’s true love was not the sport, but the pride of his country.

The poem was one of my favorites—it was short, simple, and emotional. I had to read the poem over 10 times just to understand the emotion before each word, each intention. As someone who loves history, I researched about Cubero’s death and how the nation of Spain lost not only “parte de la patria,” but a passionate man who loved his sport and life.

Thank you so much!

Miami, Florida

Wow, that’s amazing that you have a personal connection to the poem, Natalie. Yes, like you, I’m not a bullfighting fan. But as a translator of Spanish poetry, I’ve ended up at bullfights in Spain and in Mexico. I think you’re right that like your grandfather, many Spaniards (especially older ones) connect the sport to cultural pride. Some people say that when you face death, you feel most alive. But I feel most alive in love or when I disappear into some activity (like writing poems) that I’m most passionate about. You too? You ask who went to Cubero’s funeral. Thousands went. Imagine. Here’s an article on his funeral.

Forrest Gander

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