In the final months of his short life, Bruce Lee wrote a personal essay, “In My Own Process” where he said, “Basically, I have always been a martial artist by choice and actor by profession. But, above all, I am hoping to actualize myself to be an artist of life along the way.” If you’re familiar with Bruce Lee, you know that he studied philosophy at The University of Washington, and even when he auditioned for The Green Hornet in 1964 (and showed off his amazing kung fu moves), he took pains to explain the philosophy underlying the martial arts.
Lee wasn’t just a philosopher. He was also a poet and a translator of poetry. In the book, Bruce Lee: Artist of Life, John Little has published 21 original poems found within Lee’s personal archive. The poems, Little writes, “are, by American standards, rather dark — reflecting the deeper, less exposed recesses of the human psyche… Many seem to express a returning sentiment of the fleeting nature of life, love and the passion of human longing.” Above, you can see Shannon Lee, the daughter of Bruce Lee, read a poem published in Little’s collection. It’s called “Boating on Lake Washington.” Immediately below, she reads ”IF” by Rudyard Kipling, a poem her father loved so much that he had it engraved on a plaque and mounted on the wall in his home.
Finally, we leave you with Lee’s translation of another favorite poem, “The Frost” by Tzu Yeh. The video features pieces of his handwritten translation.