Baca’s work is concerned with social justice and revolves around the marginalized and disenfranchised, treating themes of addiction, community, and the American Southwest barrios. In a Callaloo interview with John Keene, Baca claims, “I approach language as if it will contain who I am as a person”—a statement that reflects the poet’s interest in the transformative and generative power of language. Immigrants in Our Own Land (1979, 1991) was Baca’s first significant collection, one based on his imprisonment. In the Encyclopedia of American Literature, Catherine Hardy wrote that the poems in the volume “reveal an honest, passionate voice and powerful imagery full of the dark jewels of the American Southwest landscape (llanos, mesas, and chiles) and the chaotic urban landscape (nightclubs, rusty motors, and bricks) woven into a rich lyricism sprinkled with Spanish.”
Baca has conducted writing workshops in prisons, libraries, and universities across the country for more than 30 years. In 2004 he launched Cedar Tree, a literary nonprofit designed to provide writing workshops, training, and outreach programs for at-risk youth, prisoners and ex-prisoners, and disadvantaged communities. Baca holds a BA in English and an honorary PhD in literature from the University of New Mexico.