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Poetry, interpretation and unpredictability: a reply to Neil Pickering
  1. Rolf Ahlzén,
  2. Carl-Magnus Stolt
  1. Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden


    In his article on poetry in health care education, Neil Pickering puts forward an argument of radical unpredictability: as we can never know in advance how a poem will be interpreted, it can be of no external use.1 It is, however, exactly this potential to give rise to multiple interpretations that makes the poem valuable. We hold that the poem should be read and discussed with no other intention than to discover and reflect on its possible meanings. Exactly this process, preferably in dialogue with other readers, may very well serve as one of the ends of the poem, and the results of it hence constitute its external use.

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    • Rolf Ahlzén is a General Practitioner and Lecturer in Medical Humanities, Department of Humanistic Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. Carl-Magnus Stolt is Professor of Humanistic Medicine, Department of Humanistic Medicine, Karolinska Institute.