Poetry in life

Ibn 'Arabi did provide some vital insights into the place of poetry in his life and his writing. The three short passages below give examples of this.

The hunter's net

In a passage of the Durrat  al-fâkhîra (translated by Ralph Austin in the Sufis of Andalusia) Ibn 'Arabi relates that one night in Seville he was sitting in silent contemplation with a group of spiritual men. Suddenly a sort of sleep overcame him, and he had a vision of himself and his companions, in which a person spoke to him, telling Ibn 'Arabi he was the messenger of Truth to him. After this, he applied himself to solving the meaning of what he had seen, and composed some verses on the subject, all of which he did silently within himself. One of his companions called to him, but he did not reply. His friend spoke again, saying, "Answer me, for you are awake and are working out some verses on the Unity of God Most High." Ibn 'Arabi writes, "At this I raised my head and said to him, 'How did you know this?'  He answered, 'Your eye is open and you are making fast the hunter's net.' I said, 'The setting in order of strewn beats is the same as the setting in order of scattered words, which is poetry; its coming into being is the net of the hunter. Only that which has life (spirit) is caught in the net, and speech and poetry have no life except they are of God..."  

A spiritual marriage

Not long after Ibn 'Arabi left Andalusia in 1200, never to return, his journey to the east took him to Bugia in modern Algeria. Here he had a vision in which he was married to "all the stars in heaven, being united to each one with a great spiritual joy. After I had become joined with the stars," he writes," I was given the letters [of the alphabet] in spiritual marriage."  During the ceremony, Ibn 'Arabi asked God about a particular sound he heard (the sound of the styluses that record human actions), and was told "What you are hearing is poetry". He asked, "And what has poetry to do with me?" and was told, "It is the origin (asl) of all the following; poetic language is the permanent principle (al-jawhar al-thabit), while prose is the immutable consequence (al-far' al-thabit)." See the article by Claude Addas, The Ship of Stone.

What I desire

Ibn 'Arabi reports, "One night I was performing the ritual circumambulations of the Ka'abah... suddenly a few lines of verse came to my mind. I recited them loudly enough to be heard... No sooner had I recited these verses than I felt on my shoulder the touch of a hand softer than silk. I turned around and found myself in the presence of a young girl, a princess from among the daughters of the Greeks. Never had I seen a woman more beautiful of face, softer of speech, more tender of heart, more spiritual in her ideas, more subtle in her symbollic allusions..."

Quoting to him one of the verses he had just uttered, she said, "I am amazed to hear such a thing from you, you who are the gnostic of your time! ... What I desire is real awareness made known by non-existence, and the Path which consists of speaking truthfully". And she proceeded to reprimand him on the other two verses he had spoken.

This is mentioned in the introduction to Tarjuman al-Ashwaq (The Interpreter of Ardent Desires), and in Henry Corbin's work, Alone with the alone: creative imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi.