Archive for February, 2010

February 11th, 2010
Michael Varrati

rmlogoThe first time I encountered Paul Cunningham was at a literary reading held at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland, PA. I often have low expectations of literature and poetry readings—not because the readers lack quality, but rather, I’ve attended enough of them that sometimes it feels all too usual.

However, Paul was far from usual, something that became apparent the second he started reading. The piece, an evocation of hardboiled gangster tales, could have suffered archetypal cliché, but it didn’t. Instead, it was rife with originality, and damn it, I wanted to hear more.

I didn’t encounter Paul all that often after that, but I kept his name in the back of my mind. I admired his talent, and at the least, would look forward very much to sitting down one day to read one of his books.

As luck would have it, some time later, Paul and I came to be associates through this very publication, Open Thread. Brought on by the editors to bring our own unique flair to the blog and arts reviews (his far more classy than mine, to be sure), Paul and I started conversing periodically and I discovered that this was not just a good writer, but generally a pretty stand-up guy.

paul1He also wasn’t one to sit still.

Writing up a veritable storm, Paul’s work had appeared in numerous online journals beyond OT, including H_NGM_N, decomP, haha clever dot com, WTF PWM, Read Some Words, DOGZPLOT, Pinstripe Fedora, and Writer’s Bloc. He also serves as an assistant managing editor to SLAB and is the author of This Boy, This Broom, a collection of nonfiction essays published by BatCat Press.

However, even this impressive list of contributions wasn’t enough for Paul. Seeking a need to get more art out there and allow artists like himself to be heard, Paul created an online literary journal of his own. Thus, Radioactive Moat was born. The first issue, featuring a slew of authors and artists from all walks of life was a success and met with praise. Author and contributor Gary Barwin even went so far as to refer to the first issue as “beautiful.”

Such praise was definitely not the minority either.

With Radioactive Moat’s first issue a success, a second issue was sure to follow. I managed to snag Paul away from his busy schedule of reading submissions for a few questions in the days before the second issue’s deadline to talk about this wonderful publication, its genesis, and what readers can expect from RM in the future.

OT Blog: What inspired you to start RM?

rm-issue-1-coverPaul: Inspiration for RM came from a lot of grief I accumulated, actually. I came across a relatively new online journal about a year ago and I couldn’t even begin to fathom why anyone would want to submit work for publication. The layout was disastrous and it was not all memorable; the font, the colors and even the masthead–all if it was incredibly bland. There are thousands of options for the modern writer seeking online publication–so many writers figure, eh, why bother starting a new online magazine–what’s the use? While I admit I have not created an online journal that is wholly unique, I do believe I have created an online journal that is inventive, yet navigable. One has to realize that reading literature online is very different from reading a print journal or chapbook. And the editors of many online publications are not always sensitive to such variation–whether clumsy HTML is to blame or, again, a clear lack of navigability. It was online journals like FOU that got me excited about the idea of creating a memorable online publication. If one thing is certain, the name (Radioactive Moat) has certainly been responsible for gaining the attention of some of the most interesting folks on the world wide web. As someone who grew up obsessing over beloved creatures like Swamp-Thing, The Toxic Avenger, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I guess I don’t find it odd that I’m managing a literary magazine called “Radioactive Moat.” I’ve always had a penchant for strange stuff–that apparently includes mysterious notions of radioactivity.

OT Blog: What kind of material do you look for to include, or rather, what kind of writing and art are you looking to represent?

Paul: RM is a place for experimental literature and I am most interested in work that introduces new aesthetic strategies, as well as literature that celebrates a surreal dichotomy of the quote, unquote “average human being” or rather, the existing complexities contained (and overlooked) by something or someone commonly dismissed as “simple” or “insignificant.” The submission guidelines state that Radioactive Moat seeks themes of reactivity, corrosivity, ignitability and toxicity. The four themes actually reference true aspects of radioactivity, but my intention is for writers to apply those aspects to their writing in a figurative sense. For instance, sex–let’s see how a writer can apply reactivity, corrosivity, ignitability or toxicity to sex. That doesn’t mean I want to read a poem called, My Toxic Sex Ignites You, Baby. Then again, looks can be deceiving…

OT Blog: How was the first issue received? Any reader response?

Paul: Conor Robin Madigan even sent me a rare image of marching Chinese cockroaches–I guess that was his way of saying he likes Radioactive Moat (ha ha). Issue One left readers with big expectations for Issue Two and I’m pretty confident those expectations will be satisfied. I’m also very excited about this issue’s digital cover artist, Jesse Draxler, a highly awesome mixed-media artist.

OT Blog: What would you like to see in the future of RM?

Paul: My hopes for the future of Radioactive Moat are glowing with optimism. Though, I think there’s always room for expansion. Interviews with various writers will be occurring on the site soon, and though I’ve considered how RM might function as a quarterly, I’m pretty content with it as a bi-annual publication.


With many thanks to Paul for taking the time to talk with us, I encourage all readers to take some time to visit the pages of Radioactive Moat. The first issue, still available for perusal on the site, truly is a phenomenal slice of reading and a nice break from the drudgery so often encountered in online publications. The next issue, due at the beginning of March, is something for the discerning fan of art and renegade literature to keep an eye out for.

A strong publication founded by an author and artist whose talent certainly just gets better with each new work, Paul Cunningham and Radioactive Moat are destined for great things among the pantheon of quality literature.

So not only do I give Radioactive Moat and its creator a strong recommendation—I’d like to think I’ve given it a glowing one. Because after all, when it comes to radioactive moats, is there any other kind?

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