This would contradict the Harris-Mumford(-Eisenbud) theorem that $M_g$ is non-uniruled for $g$ at least $23$. Let $C$ be a general curve of genus $g$. If $C$ is in "Zieve form", then it is the normalization of the (almost certainly) singular curve in $\mathbb{CP}^1 \times \mathbb{CP}^1$,
$$D = \{ ([x_0,x_1],[y_0,y_1]) \in \mathbb{CP}^1\times \mathbb{CP}^1 \vert y_0^e f(x_0,x_1) - x_0^dg(y_0,y_1) \}, $$ where $f(x_0,x_1)$, respectively $g(y_0,y_1)$, is a homogeneous polynomial of degree $d$, resp. $e$, such that $f(0,1)$ and $g(0,1)$ are nonzero (or else the defining polynomial factors to a simpler form). By direct computation, the singular points occur where $[x_0,x_1]$ is a multiple root of $f(x_0,x_1)$ and $[y_0,y_1]$ is a multiple root of $g(y_0,y_1)$ or the point is $([0,1],[0,1])$. Moreover, at each point, the local analytic type of the singularity is the same as the plane curve with equation $y^n-x^m$, where $m$, resp. $n$, is the vanishing order of $f(x_0,x_1)$, resp. $g(y_0,y_1)$ at that point. In particular, the "delta invariant" depends only on $(m,n)$. Thus, if you "deform" $f(x_0,x_1)$ and $g(y_0,y_1)$ so that the number and type of multiple roots remains constant, then the normalizations of the corresponding curves in $\mathbb{CP}^1\times \mathbb{CP}^1$ remain of genus $g$. However, the family of such deformations of $(f,g)$ is a rational variety. Precisely, if you write
$$ f(x_0,x_1) = (x_1-a_1x_0)^{m_1}(x_1-a_2x_0)^{m_2}\cdots (x_1-a_rx_0)^{m_r}, $$ with $(a_1,\dots,a_r)$ pairwise distinct,
then the deformation space for $f$ is just a Zariski open subset of the affine space with coordinates $(a_1,\dots,a_r)$, and similarly for $g(x_0,x_1)$. Since $M_g$ is non-uniruled, this is a contradiction: there is only the constant morphism from a rational variety to $M_g$ whose image contains the general point parameterizing $C$.

**Edit.** Mike also asks whether this could be true if $f$ and $g$ are rational functions rather than polynomial functions. This is equivalent to replacing the defining equation above in $\mathbb{CP}^1 \times \mathbb{CP}^1$ by the more general equation
$$
g_0(y_0,y_1)f_1(x_0,x_1) - f_0(x_0,x_1)g_1(y_0,y_1),
$$
where $f_0$, $f_1$ are homogeneous of degree $d$ with no common factor, and where $g_0$, $g_1$ are homogeneous of degree $d$ with no common factor. The same observations apply: the number and types of singularities depend only on the number and multiplicities of the roots of $f_0$, $f_1$, $g_0$ and $g_1$. By varying those (distinct, likely repeated) roots as in the previous paragraph, one gets a morphism from a rational, quasi-projective variety to $M_g$. By Harris-Mumford(-Eisenbud), the only such morphism is constant if the image contains a general point of $M_g$.

geometricallyirreducible? Is the ground field algebraically closed? Of characteristic 0? $\endgroup$ – user30180 Jan 5 '13 at 14:30