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Demetrios Capetanakis or Kapetanakis or Capetanaces (Greek: Δημήτριος Καπετανάκης; Smyrna, 1912–London, 9 March 1944) was a Greek poet, essayist and critic. For the last five years of his life (1939-1944) he lived in Britain, and wrote some poetry in English.[1]


Capetanakis was born on 22 January 1912 in Smyrna. In 1922 his father died, and in the same year he came to Athens, when his mother fled the Asia Minor Catastrophe with her three children.[2]

He was a graduate in political science and economics from Athens University, where he was taught by Panagiotis Kanellopoulos (whom he would encounter again in the Greek government in exile in London). Afterwards he became a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Heidelberg (1934). In Germany he became interested in the ideas of Stefan George, which he ultimately rejected as a forerunner of Nazism.

In Greece he had several philosophic studies published, including one on The Struggle of the Solitary Soul and one on The Mythology of Beauty.

In 1939 with a scholarship from the British Council he came to Britain, to study at the University of Cambridge under Dadie Rylands.

He became a protégé of the poet Edith Sitwell. In 1941 he met the poet and publisher John Lehmann,[3] who published Capetanakis in New Writing and became a close friend. Through Lehmann he met William Plomer.[4]

For a short period he went to the Midlands to help prepare a Friends Ambulance Unit for relief work in Greece so soon as that country should be liberated from Nazi occupation. In 1942 he was diagnosed with leucaemia.[5] In Birmingham he was supported by Dame Elizabeth Cadbury.[6] He died in London on 9 March 1944 at Westminster Hospital, and was buried at West Norwood Cemetery.

In 1947 John Lehmann published Demetrios Capetanakis A Greek Poet In England, which contains sixteen English poems by Capetanakis, three of his translations from Prevelakis and Elytis and eleven of his essays - on the Greeks, Ghika, Rimbaud, Stefan George, Proust, Dostoevsky, Thomas Gray, English poetry, some contemporary writers, Charlotte Bronte and modern Greek poetry. These are accompanied by tributes from Lehmann, Edith Sitwell, P. Canellopoulos and William Plomer and a portrait photograph by H. Wild.

Further reading

Demetrios Capetanakis A Greek Poet In England (London: John Lehmann, 1947)
Z. Lorenzatos, 'Demetrios Capetanakis', in Z. Lorenzatos, The Drama of Quality, tr. L. Sherrard (2000), p.54-74.

Notes

^ In The Isles of Greece and Other Poems (1981) 17 were published.
^ Demetrios Capetanakis Biography, Denise Harvey Publisher
^ Adrian Wright, John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure (1998), p. 127.
^ Peter F. Alexander, William Plomer (1989), p. 243.
^ Wright, p. 153.
^ Wright, p. 154.

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