I was "political" not just because I was involved, but in feeling I must choose to defend a good cause against a bad one. Auden remarked to me at the end of the war that he was political in the 1930s just because he thought something could and should be done. On the other hand, I never felt that the writers who did not feel this obligation were wrong. They might be concerned with values beyond action which, after all. alone justify action and therefore must not be allowed to lapse. Or they might be witnesses of a fatalism and despair which were equally important truths for the human soul as the "il faut agir" [we must act] of André Malraux. Politics of a rather direct kind had become my experience, but I defended those who had other attitudes.
~ Spender, World within World
I envied the painter's life ~ the way in which he is surrounded by the material of his art. A writer does not have a visible palette of words laid out before him into which he dips his pen, mixes them and lays them on the page. The painter can immerses himself in his work more than a writer, because painting is largely a craft, a sensuous activity with tangible material, whereas writing is largely cerebral.
Interesting that Spender's autobiography is not in the NYPL, but books about him are, including one by his son on growing up Spender. He's insightful on poetry & goes on rather too much psychoanalyzing himself, which is dated. I wanted to read it because of his connection to the Spanish Civil War & his poem "Port Bou."