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Stan Rice, 60; Poet, Painter Encouraged Wife to Write

Times Staff Writer

Stan Rice, a painter, educator and award-winning poet content to be the wind beneath the wings of his best-selling novelist wife Anne and their novelist son Christopher, has died. He was 60.

Rice, who encouraged his wife to begin her string of vampire horror novels, died of brain cancer Monday in New Orleans.

The first published author in the family, Stan Rice released his seventh volume of poetry, “Red to the Rind,” earlier this year. He published a coffee-table book of reproductions of his artwork in 1997 titled simply “Paintings.”

In reviewing “Red to the Rind” for the Kansas City Star a few weeks ago, John Mark Eberhart wrote that Rice “is now the least-known writer in the family ... but may be the best writer in this New Orleans coven of three. His poetry is visceral and intellectual, disturbing and comforting, macabre and life-seeking.”

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Eberhart described the first poem in the book, “Behold,” as “a beautifully disturbing little creature that seems innocuous enough at first ... mov[ing] from the mundane motif of insomnia into the domain of [Rice’s] own wickedly vivid imagination.”

The 11-line poem states:

People wake up in the middle of the night.

No, not in the middle ... Deep in their brains.

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They know the present, the little braveries.

We lock our doors from the inside.

We want to be delivered.

We want the patience of mirrors.

We want not to be torn in two by a brown river.

We want the courage to dive

Off the high board into human eyes.

Behold the door.

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The lock’s alive.

The careers of the Rices were as entwined as their lives. He credited her with inspiring his painting “The Flying Pig” by buying him a large winged pig and hanging it from the ceiling of his studio. In the biography “Prism of the Night,” she was quoted calling her husband “a model to me of a man who doesn’t look to heaven or hell to justify his feelings about life itself. His capacity for action is admirable.” He wrote poems as chapter introductions for her 1988 novel “Queen of the Damned.”

Born in Dallas, Stan Rice met Anne O’Brien in their high school journalism class when he edited their school paper. They married Oct. 14, 1961, when she was 20 and he was a month shy of 19.

The couple moved to the campus of San Francisco State University, which was to be their creative crucible, until 1988. They then relocated to New Orleans, where he opened the Stan Rice Gallery.

After he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Rice became the family breadwinner, teaching English and creative writing at San Francisco State beginning in 1965, and eventually heading its department of creative writing from 1980 until 1988.

Anne Rice, who studied political science at San Francisco State and later literary criticism at UC Berkeley, worked as a waitress, cook, theater usher and insurance claims adjuster and in 1966 gave birth to their first child, Michelle.

It was Michelle’s death from leukemia six years later that propelled both Rices into becoming published authors. He published his first book of poems, based on his tiny daughter’s death and titled it “Some Lamb” in 1975.

At the same time, he encouraged his wife to abandon her odd jobs and write full-time, resulting in her first novel “Interview With the Vampire” published in 1976.

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His second volume of poetry, “Whiteboy” (1976), earned the Edgar Allen Poe award from the Academy of American Poets.

His other books include “Body of Work” (1983), “Singing Yet: New and Selected Poems” (1992), “Fear Itself” (1995) and “The Radiance of Pigs” (1999) as well as “Paintings” in 1997 and this year’s “Red to the Rind.”

Among his other awards were a National Endowment for the Arts grant and the Joseph Henry Jackson award from the San Francisco Foundation. He had a one-man show of his paintings at Gallerie Simone Stern in New Orleans in 1992.

Over the years, Knopf, the publishing house that puts out Anne Rice’s books, became Stan Rice’s publisher as well. In 1995, Entertainment Weekly called the arrangement “the best kind of nepotism: A deserving poet has found a home.”

His wife’s books have sold more than 150 million copies around the world. His didn’t, and he didn’t care.

“I am committed to a vigorous and exciting poetry that can be read aloud, that is not contemptuous of its audience, and yet makes no compromise to mediocre taste or subject matter,” he once told the writers’ anthology Contemporary Authors.

“I’d very much like to ... claim again the ancient social role of poetry as public language at its best.”

Rice also encouraged their son, Christopher, to keep writing despite comparison with his famous mother. Christopher, an openly gay writer, has published two novels, both with gay characters: “A Density of Souls” in 2000 and “The Snow Garden” this year.

In addition to his wife and son, Rice is survived by his mother, Margaret Rice; a brother, Larry; and two sisters, Nancy Rice Diamond and Cynthia Rice Rodgers.


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