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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