Baraka’s career covers nearly fifty years and his topics range from Black Liberation and White Racism. Several poems that are always associated with his name are “The Music: Reflection on Jazz and Blues,” “The Book of Monk,” and “New Music, New Poetry.” These titles draw on concepts such as society, music, and literature. Baraka's poetry and writing have attracted both extreme praise and condemnation. Within the African-American community, some compare him to James Baldwin and call Baraka one of the most respected and most widely published Black writers of his generation. Others have said his work is an expression of violence, misogyny, homophobia and racism. Regardless of viewpoint, Baraka’s plays, poetry, and essays have been defining texts for African-American culture.
Baraka's brief tenure as Poet Laureate of New Jersey (2002–03), involved controversy over a public reading of his poem "Somebody Blew Up America?" and accusations of anti-semitism, and some negative attention from critics, and politicians.