Airini studied Ecological and Biodiversity Studies and creative writing at Victoria University from 2001-2005. In 2005 she completed the MA in Creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters. During the time, Airini produced the manuscript for her first book, Secret Heart which was published by Victoria University Press in 2006. Secret Heart won the NZSA Jessie McKay Award for the Best First Book of Poetry at the New Zealand book awards the following year. This collection of prose poems has been described as ‘unexpectedly satisfying’ and demonstrates a ‘breadth of style and substance.’
Airini’s second book, Western Line was published by Victoria University Press in 2011. Paula Green in a review for the New Zealand Herald wrote that the collection filled her with joy ‘through what words can do and through the avenues poetry makes available.’ The collection was described by VUP as an ‘arrestingly original mix of observation, performance and jokes.’ Patricia Prime for Takahe said the collection was ‘substantial, well-conceived and nimbly-crafted’ and ‘resonant and delicate.'
From 2013 -2016 Airini completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters. During this time, her third collection of poetry, Dear Neil Roberts was published by Victoria University Press in 2014. Dear Neil Roberts explores the presence of Neil Roberts, a twenty-two year old anarchist who blew himself up outside the Whanganui Police station in 1982, in both the poet’s life and the Whanganui region. Paula Green described it as ‘narrative poetry at its very best.’ Dear Neil Roberts was longlisted for the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. In 2016 Airini was also the winner of the Landfall Essay Competition for her essay Umlaut. Editor and judge David Eggleton described the essay as ‘dextrous, exuberant and comical’ and Airini as ‘unwilling to be boring, willing to take risks, and enough of a seasoned practitioner to carry it off with sustained verve.’ Airini was also shortlisted for the Sarah Broom Prize of that year.
Airini’s fourth and most recent book, Flow: Whanganui River Poems, was published by Victoria University Press in 2017. The project began as the creative component of her PhD. James Brown describes these poems as ‘remarkable. They ‘wind and eddy like the Whanganui river, filtering the region’s many histories into something exhilarating and readable.’ Airini says despite having a few things in mind that she was interested to write about, ‘the river ended up taking over... like a flood.’ Flow: Whanganui River Poems was longlisted for the 2018 Ockham Book awards.
In 2021, Airini Beautrais won the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction and $57,000 for her collection of short stories, Bug Week (Victoria University Press).
Elizabeth Morton reviews Western Line
Paula Morris reviews Dear Neil Roberts
Paula Green reviews Western Line
VUP interview with Airini about her book Flow: Whanganui River Poems
Emma Shi reviews Flow
Janis Freegard reviews Dear Neil Roberts