The Pulitzer-winning poet and critic (Person, Place, and Thing, Essay on Rime, etc.) offers the first volume of his three-part autobiography--a work that answers, with much grace and plain readability, his older brother's troublesome question: ""How did you become a poet?"" Shapiro displays here the same independence of mind that makes his poetry sui generis. Though an admirer of fellow moderns Auden and Williams (his ""favorite""), Shapiro forged an idiom all his own, based largely on his identity as a bourgeois Jew from the South. Born in Baltimore, young Karl moved back and forth to Virginia and Maryland, following his father's many career shifts until the old man finally left the family for his wife's best friend, Hardly the honor student his older brother was, Shapiro began honing his verse skills early on. Out of boredom, Shapiro himself would later drop out of the Univ. of Virginia and finagle a scholarship to Johns Hopkins, where his classical scholarship and literary high-mindedness won him numerous admirers, not a few of the opposite gender. No coyness plagues this memoir, for Shapiro lays out his sexual development (a course that runs from abstract beauty to basic lust) with a disarming frankness. But this is also a soldier's story, since Shapiro spent over four years in the Army, an education that more than compensated for his lack of a college degree. Drafted a year before Pearl Harbor, Shapiro served both in Australia and New Guinea, after months at sea in the South Pacific. Meanwhile, he not only wrote voluminously, but began publishing widely back in the States, to much acclaim. At the close of this volume, Shapiro returns to private life, married and wiser, poised for battle at the literary barricades. Shapiro's use of the third person to refer to himself at first grates, but then proves the perfect irony for this most personal and personable of memoirs--a book that may help to bring this unduly neglected poet back into fashion.