The Poetry of Bruce Lee: Discover the Artistic Life of the Martial Arts Icon

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.

Related Content:

Bruce Lee: The Lost TV Interview

Watch 10-Year-Old Bruce Lee in His First Starring Role (1950)

Bruce Lee Plays Ping Pong with Nunchucks

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Comments (5)
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  • Jason Wright says:

    Artist of Life,gave me a use full message about life. I am thinking if you are a fighter of martial arts than you need some extra things to fresh your mind.

  • Kelli says:

    THANK YOU for having this site, and for sharing this wonderful, little-known facet of Bruce Lee’s brilliance: his poetry. I am a HUGE admirer of Bruce Lee, and in addition to watching his DVD’s at home, I regularly scour the Internet for doses of his jaw-dropping quotes and dazzling photos. Shannon Lee is a beautiful lady, and I can only imagine the bittersweetness of growing up with the knowledge that your father was a multi-talented genius, but not being able to physically embrace him & spend real-life moments with her father past a certain age…something many of us take for granted. Mr. Lee is an amazing icon who broke his own mold and walked boldly thru the proverbial racial barriers in the entertainment industry, establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with, and leaving an indelible mark on the minds of his life-long admirers (like me). I wonder if people out there will ever understand how awesome this man really was. Although his fierce passion and electric personality shines thru on his classic interview footage, I still imagine what it would’ve been like to sit across from him myself, sip tea with him, and discuss the beauty of life.

  • Vader says:

    I actualy agree because I loved his quotes, determination, and how he worked very hrd. Rundantly hard is determinded.

  • James says:

    Well said , he influenced me as a young man and still as older boy
    James Hatzi

  • Kyubi says:

    I truly respect and admire Bruce Lee for his determination and strict self training along with the understanding of life being short, and making the most out of it by reaching personal growth not only just physically but mentally as well. I am 17 as of now but I hope to attain my own goals in life by remembering how hard one must work to prevail in life.

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