Mani Rao (born 28 February 1965) is an Indian poet and independent scholar, writing in English.
Mani Rao has authored ten poetry collections and two books in translation from Sanskrit including the works of Kalidasa and a translation of the Bhagavad Gita as a poem, besides an anthropological study of mantra-practice.
Translations of Rao's poems have been published in Latin, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, French and German. Rao has had poems published in literary journals including Poetry Magazine, Fulcrum, Wasafiri, Meanjin, Washington Square, West Coast Line, Tinfish, and in anthologies including The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (W.W. Norton, 2008), and The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets. (Bloodaxe Books, 2008)  She was a Visiting Fellow at the Iowa International Writing Program in 2005 and 2009, held the 2006 University of Iowa International Programs writer-in-residence K-12 fellowship, and writing residencies at Omi Ledig House in 2018 and International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) Canberra in 2019. She was a co-founder of OutLoud, a regular poetry-reading gathering in Hong Kong, and contributed a poetry segment to RTHK Radio 4.
Rao worked in advertising and television from 1985 to 2004 in Chennai, Mumbai, Hong Kong and Auckland, and was Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Corporate Communications at Star (TV) Group Ltd., based in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, Rao worked for Star (TV) Group Ltd for 9 years, and was the Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Corporate Communications. She spearheaded the 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' marketing campaign (Who Wants to be a Millionaire). She has an MFA from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and a PhD in Religious Studies from Duke University.
From Listing in The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry, (Eds. Ian Hamilton & Jeremy Noel-Tod. Oxford University Press, 2013. 2nd Edition): "Rao's version of the Bhagavad Gita (Autumn Hill / Penguin, 2010 / 2011) unpacks the original Sanskrit with a range of avant garde techniques—with regards to prosody, diction, mise-en-page and lineation—rendering a new translation of the well-known philosophical text unlike any before it."
“The great virtue of The Bhagavad Gita is courage, and in her luminous new translation, Rao is courageous indeed. Her lines venture to keep pace with the original, stride for stride, revelation for revelation. As Wittgenstein wrote, 'courage is always original." I can avow that Rao's is the first truly original version of this sacred text to appear in decades." – Donald Revell
“Mani Rao has transformed the most famous spiritual poem in India to a multi-layered poem, giving shapes to multiple meanings and sounds to multiple forms. Just as Arjuna saw the universe in Krishna's mouth and like the endless tree, the tree of life, which reveals its roots above and leaves below, Mani Rao has shown us this universe, this endless life with its supporting philosophy, as a poem to be perceived directly, intuitively, cutting through reason and linearity to arrive at the underlying undying poetry and grace of this epic work."– Frederick Smith
"Here is a poet who works by daring – daring herself and the reader – to let go. She works in the dark with wit and knife and punch and paper scissors. She cuts and pastes, leaves gaping holes. Her work is a black masque in which parts of speech change parts, and all have the rightness of electronic rain. In the best poems you hear and feel and watch a current – which straight prose insulates as meaning–go crackling from naked line to line, making the unrepeatable pattern that is momentary sense. It's like watching lightning fork. Mani Rao has a strong bleak voice. It's the voice of the voyager: it discommodes, rattles you, shakes you down. Her poetry is sleepless and unwinking. You go to it for debriefing, for the jolt you expect from good writing. And you go back — or she pursues you. She is the hawker you thought you shook off in the square, she is your mechanic come home to spend the night. Let her in: you’ll live to regret it, but at least you’ll live." – Allan Sealy
Books and Chapbooks
- Sing to Me (Recent Work Press, 2019).
- Living Mantra – Mantra, Deity and Visionary Experience Today (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).
- Bhagavad Gita (Fingerprint, 2015). (This edition includes a translation of Ishavasyopanishad).
- New & Selected Poems (Poetrywala, India, 2014).
- Echolocation (Math Paper Press, Singapore, 2014).
- Kalidasa for the 21st Century Reader (Aleph Book Co. 2014)
- Bhagavad Gita – A translation of the poem," (Autumn Hill Books, 2010) (Penguin India, 2011).
- Ghostmasters, (Hong Kong: Chameleon Press, 2010)
- Mani Rao:100 Poems, 1985–2005, (Hong Kong: Chameleon Press, 2006)
- Echolocation (Hong Kong: Chameleon Press, 2003)
- Salt (Hong Kong: Asia 2000)
- The Last Beach (Bilingual with Chinese translation. Trans. Huang Chan Lan. Hong Kong: Asia 2000, 1999)
- Living Shadows (Bilingual with Chinese translation. Trans. Huang Chan Lan. Drawings Mani Rao. Hong Kong: HK Arts Development Council, 1997)
- Catapult Season (Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1993)
- Wing Span (Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1987)
- “Decoding Augustine via Saussure.” In-Between Journal of Literary Criticism (Sep 2009). 131-139.
- “Repetitiveness in Gita translations.” eXchanges (Winter 2009).
- “Caterpillar to Butterfly: Thoreau’s dietary journey.” Thoreau Society Bulletin (Issue 270, 2010).
- “Reading the Rigveda.” Indian Literature (Issue 262. Vol LV. No 2. March-April 2011).
- “Automatic Writing – Real, Surreal, Indeterminate.” Fulcrum (Issue 7, 2011).
- Lorine Niedecker Condens.” Interim (Vol.28 No.1 & 2, 2010 and Vol 29 issue 3, 2012). Using only Niedecker’s words, a poem-essay of her poetic principles.
- Review of Arvind K. Mehrotra’s Songs of Kabir. Translation Review (Vol 83, 2012).
- “A Brief History of the Bhagavad Gita’s Canonization.” Religion Compass, Nov 2013.
- “Preface” to Autobiography of a Goddess— Andal,” a translation by Priya Sarukkai Chabbria and Ravi Shankar. New Delhi: Zubaan Books, 2016.
- “Up, Down, Up.” Review of Availalable Light by C.P.Surendran. Scroll. 11 Nov 2017.
- “Experience of Srividya at Devipuram.” Religions 2019, 10, 14; doi:10.3390/rel10010014.
- The Conjuring of Atman in Gita translations. Osmania Journal of English Studies, 2019.
- Autumn Hill Books Website Archived 26 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
- Rao, Mani (2019). Living Mantra: Mantra, Deity, and Visionary Experience Today. Contemporary Anthropology of Religion. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-3-319-96390-7.
- Mani Rao’s Official Website
- "Mani RAO | The International Writing Program". iwp.uiowa.edu. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
- "Past Residents". artomi.org. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
- "Katarina"] ["Slavich" (16 October 2019). "Reaching for the moon: UC's Poetry on the Move Festival draws big names". www.canberra.edu.au. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
- "Stanza and deliver". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
- "PEN World Voices > 2006 Festival Mani Rao". Archived from the original on 11 July 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2009.
- indiantelevision.com (12 April 2004). "Three senior executives exit Star Group".
- November 30, V. Shankar Nayar Anupama Chopra; July 17, 1999 ISSUE DATE; August 5, 2000UPDATED; Ist, 2015 13:26. "Kaun Banega Crorepati mesmerises people as STAR TV bets Rs 75 crore on Amitabh Bachchan". India Today. Retrieved 12 April 2021.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
- Interview in POV by Usha Akella (2020). "The Power of Mantra."
- Interview by PTI (24 Feb 2019). "Ancient Wisdom in Modern Times."
- Interview in Scroll (7 Oct 2018) by Rohini Kejriwal. "It's how they roll on your tongue that matters..."
- Interview in DNA India (20 Oct 2015) by Latha Srinivasan.
- Interview in Kitaab by Zafar Anjum (2 Nov 2014). “Poetry for me is an intense form of writing."
- Interview in South China Morning Post (30 May 2010) by Mark Footer. "My Life."
- Review of "Sing to Me" in Business Standard News (16 Nov 2019) by Uttaran Das Gupta. "Myths and Modernity."
- Review of "New and Selected Poems" in Indian Literature by Rati Agnihotri. "Three-Dimensional Poetry." Vol. 61, No. 1 (297), 21st Century Indian Poetry in English (January/February 2017), pp. 206-209.
- Review of "Bhagavad Gita" in Asymptote by Eric M Gurevitch
- Review of "Ghostmasters" in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal by Reid Mitchell. "Learning to Hear Mani Rao."
- Review of "Ghostmasters" in Mascara Literary Review (1 Jan 2011) by Amos Toh.
- Review of "echolocation" in QLRS (Vol. 3 No. 4 Jul 2004) by Cyril Wong. "Locating Logos."
- Poem "My Old Woman" in Poetry Magazine (July/August 2019).
- "Poem, Sisyphus" in Omniverse.
- Poems from "Ghostmasters" in Almost Island (Monsoon 2009).
- Poems from "echolocation" in Softblow
- Excerpts from translation of Bhagavad Gita in eXchanges: Journal of Literary Translation (Exocity, Winter 2009)
- Excerpts from translation of Kalidasa's Ritusamharam in Almost Island
- Excerpts from translation of Kalidasa's Meghadutam in Poetry at Sangam
- Conversation with Devdutt Pattanaik at Bangalore Literature Festival (3 Feb 2016)
- Conversation with Chitra Mahesh at Hindu Lit for Life 2019 about Mani Rao's book Living Mantra.
- Conversation with Lata Mani at Atta Galatta about Mani Rao's Bhagavad Gita translation 2015
- Author’s Website
- Poets & Writers > Directory of Writers > Mani Rao
- Author's page on Facebook for literary updates https://www.facebook.com/maniraopoem/
- Author's page on Facebook for updates on Living Mantra: https://www.facebook.com/bookonmantra/
- Author's Twitter handler