The choice of a life more significant than celebrated adds stature to young adult biography; the choice of Alan Seeger, the young American poet killed at the Somme in the first flowering of his talent, offers the possibility of youthful involvement. Mr. Werstein does and does not succeed in this brief memoir. Part One, Fragments: 1880-1912, starts with refreshing directness, proceeds through prophetic happenings of childhood--after a barely avoided sledding accident: ""I had to prove I could do it""; through years in Mexico exploring, seeing, sensing; at Harvard, solitary, rejecting any distractions from his studies, and then erupting in good fellowship; living in New York as the prototype of the alienated artist, scornful of convention yet unsure that his talent is great enough to fulfill his aspirations; and then, 1912, Paris... Up to this point, midpoint, this is an effective reconstruction of externals, the prelude to the experience of war and response to experience that distinguishes Seeger's life and motivates his poetry. And here the author is undone by his inability to rise above the routine raconteur: we miss the variety of pace, the play of light and shade, the apt phrase and expressive detail--all the artistry that makes art. The poet/Legionnaire who wrote I Have a Rendezvous with Death and went off to keep that rendezvous appears intermittently in excerpts from his own writings, but the gallant tragedy of his life and death remains largely a surface statement. And none of his poems is reprinted in full.