Thursday, February 18, 2010 17 Comments

Horseshoe Pit in Golden Gate Park

The Conservatory horseshoe pit,
Long a hobo-jungled ruin,
Was made again last year
By volunteers and money,
Asphalt, rebar and white paint.
Now, in March, the stakes,
Some thirty-two in folded file,
Stand like rifles in the wet sun.
Nobody is here. Nobody will be.
Nobody plays horseshoes now
In San Francisco. There is no click,
There is no clack; no curses
And no yells. Above the pit,
Twice lifesize in bas-relief
But sliding from the withers,
A white horse, in old concrete,
Prances on without his torso.


Blogger DR said...

Hey Moldbug,

Yer donaters ain't paying you to write poetry. Get back to work on the political stuff (or even better Urbit)!

February 18, 2010 at 1:08 AM  
Blogger asokoloski said...

Very nice! Here is the location referred to in the poem.

February 18, 2010 at 1:10 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

The reason nobody uses it anymore is because "people" became "hippies" and everyone knows that if stoners start throwing metal objects about they'll bash their fool heads in.

February 18, 2010 at 4:23 AM  
Anonymous Grind said...

Given that it's SF, this pointless exercise was probably accomplished at significantly greater expense and time than in any sane locale in addition to being more or less pointless.

February 18, 2010 at 4:50 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

"Yer donaters ain't paying you to write poetry."

You donate to pay for past results, not to guarantee future performance. Moldbug already stressed this.

"Three: when donating, you are paying for performance. But you are not paying for future performance. You are paying for past performance."

Future results cannot be guaranteed regardless, and moreover spending time worrying about 'owing' things because of freely given gifts takes time away from considering actual content about issues.

February 18, 2010 at 5:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I made a reasonable donation and quite like MM's poetry, so speak for yourself.

February 18, 2010 at 6:31 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


Thank you. Your reply to DR was far more polite than the one I had in mind.

To my real comment:


We have a winner! By far the best of MM's verse. An MM metrics is beginning to appear. I may do an analysis. Perhaps MM should make a UR:Poetry blog where the poems are collected. That way fans of the verse could read uninterrupted (obvs the originals would still appear here). Or has someone already done that?

February 18, 2010 at 7:00 AM  
Blogger alexi de sadesky said...

This fella has em all sorted out in a section for us:

February 18, 2010 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


it's a bit behind but a good start.

February 18, 2010 at 8:35 AM  
Anonymous josh said...


Back when MM participated in the comments he posted the following in the thread for "The Pigeon";

"Thanks! Actually the verse is not meant to scan at all, at least not in anything like metric feet.

(But there was an extra "whick" in the first line, which I have taken the liberty of correcting. Somehow I managed to remember this and read it to myself as "whick-whick-whack-whack-whock", when the original text actually had three whicks. Early senility will certainly be my fate.),

Anyway, my view, which admittedly puts me in a minority but is certainly not my invention, is that the natural line in English, at least modern conversational English "as she is spoke," is a four-stressed line with arbitrary count and placement of unstressed syllables.

One way to hear this natural line is to read verse, rather than in the sonorous diction of Garrick and Kean, at a normal conversational speed with normal conversational enunciation. Or even exaggerate the speed, like a car salesman, to counteract the usual recital voice.

If you try this exercise with the above, I think you will hear the four-stress line. At least I hear it. It is certainly true that if you recite this poem in the usual manner in which one hears poetry recited, it sounds like terrible pentameter.

The idea that actors should speak in conversational English dates, of course, to the 20th century. For some reason it has gained much less acceptance in poetry, which is always essentially a monologue.

Even when you read silently, your brain is sounding out the words - if you take a functional MRI of a subject reading silently, the area of motor cortex that controls the voicebox is active.

And there is certainly nothing wrong with reading - silently or otherwise - in a Garrick and Kean metered voice. Or, for that matter, in a hushed, pompous NPR free-verse voice. Many very fine 20th-century poets wrote in each of these voices.

However, I am very confident that if you read it in either of these voices, my verse sounds like absolute crap, because it is not written to be sounded in this way. Read it as if you were making a telemarketing call, and it should sound fine (and if it doesn't, I hope someone will tell me).

For example, there is an extra "whick" in the first line of the poem as I posted it. It should be"

February 18, 2010 at 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look on my pits, ye mighty, and despair.

February 18, 2010 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


Yeah, but I think he's "developed" that a bit, but thanks for digging it up for me--I'm too damn lazy to pull a Michael S on his verse, but I would like to look at it all. Is there a poem between Alien Acid Beast and this one?

February 18, 2010 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Also, Josh, he doesn't always do it, either.

I'm with him on the four-stress line. I generally tell all American metrical poets I know to abandon pentameter in the main and write in tetrameter--as it's a more Americanized voicing.

I think, however that the four stress line sounds more natural with a soft-or-hard caesura after the first pair of stresses, a la blues music ("she gives me money--when I'm in need").

But on a line like

"Now, in March, the stakes" MM doesn't have 4 stresses.

So we'll see what he's really doing.

More later.

February 18, 2010 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Empty parks is a major concern of Jane Jacobs' "The Death and Life of Great American Cities".

Just as Paul Hewitt was a better match to debate futurism with Robin Hanson, I suggest William Easterly as a debating partner with Mencius on foreign aid & colonialism.

February 18, 2010 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger asokoloski said...

ADS: don't forget this collection (not my work, I don't know whose).

February 19, 2010 at 4:30 AM  
Blogger Dennis Mangan said...

Let me guess: you were inspired by Philip Larkins "Sunny Prestatyn".

February 19, 2010 at 6:16 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...


Thank you. Your reply to DR was far more polite than the one I had in mind."

Most welcome.

Amusingly, I planned my post before I read the comments. I was quite surprised when I could use the plan verbatim.

"Philip Larkins "Sunny Prestatyn"."

To me this reads, "I cannot create an interesting poem without blatant sex and violence. Please forgive me."

February 20, 2010 at 7:59 AM  

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