Art is a political force for Whitman, but....we are not speaking of politics in the conventional sense. Art does not organize parties, nor is it the servant or colleague of power. Rather, the work of art becomes a political force simply through the faithful representation of the spirit. It is a political act to create an image of the self or of the collective. It has no logos power, but the law and the legislatures will say they thought it up when it comes to term. In an early letter Whitman writes that "under and behind the bosh of the regular politicians, there burns....the divine fire which...during all ages, has only wanted a chance to leap forth and confound the calculations of tyrants, hunkers, and all their tribe." The work of the political artist creates a body for this fire. So long as the artists speaks the truth, he will, whenever the government is lying or has betrayed the people, become a political force whether he intends it or not, as witness American artists during the 1930s or during the Vietnam war, Spanish artists during their civil war, South Korean poets in recent years, all Russian artists since the Revolution, Bertolt Brecht as Hitler rose to power, and so forth. In times like these the spirit of the polis must be removed from the hands of the politicians and survive in the resistant imagination. Then the artist finds he is describing a world that does not appear in the newspapers and someone has tapped his phone who never thought to call in times of peace.
- Lewis Hyde, from The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.