Mani Rao  is the author of eight poetry books with poems and essays published in journals including Tinfish, Wasafiri, Meanjin, Washington Square, Fulcrum, West Coast Line, Zoland Poetry, W.W. Norton's Language for a New Century, Penguin's 60 Indian Poets, and the BloodAxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets.

She has performed at literary festivals including the Age Melbourne Writers' Festival, Vancouver Asian Heritage Month, Chicago Humanities Festival, New York PEN World Voices, the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival, and the Singapore International Poetry Festival. Translations of her poems have been published in Latin, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, French, and German.

She was Visiting Fellow at the Iowa International Writing Program in 2005 and 2009, and received the 2006 University of Iowa International Programs writer-in-residence fellowship. In Hong Kong, she is the co-founder of OutLoud and contributed a poetry segment to Radio 4.