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Tender Headed


Tender Headed, selected by Camille Rankine as a winner of the 2022 National Poetry Series, is a musical and formally playful meditation on Black identity and masculinity

Now available for preorder. All preorders will ship on or before December 05, 2023.

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Forthcoming: 12/5/23

$17.95 $13.46

What people are saying…

“In Tender Headed, Olatunde Osinaike asks the question, what makes a man, and what makes a man like me? As he interrogates the inner and outer workings of masculinity in all its sharp and tender parts, and the way a Black man meets the world, his poems strut and duck and weave across their pages. These poems unpack the ingredients of being and make a meal of language. They relish every word, every sound, every syllable. Their music is the sugar that makes us take our medicine, but their beauty refuses to be disguise. They disturb the peace while asking, ‘whose peace?’ The poems are playful, not playing. They pulse and spin and push us forward, never carry us away. Even as we dance along, we never close our eyes. This work is nimble. A two-step on a tightwire. Tender Headed grooves and shines, holds us wide awake and mesmerized.”
—Camille Rankine, author of Incorrect Merciful Impulses

“What sets Tender Headed apart from most of what passes for soically engaged ‘poetry’ nowadays is that Osinaike is not relying on The Project to do the heavy lifting. Rather, he is writing actual poems. Inventive, musical, and surprising poems.”
—John Murillo, author of Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry

“With precise linguistic cleverness, Osinaike shapes, mangles, and unearths gospels to smoothen the serrated edges of masculinity. What’s culyivated in this resistance is space for our breathing, space for our being. Tender Headed annihilates the lie of a singular Black male identity.”
—Courtney Faye Taylor, author of Concentrate

“This poet has a truly remarkable ear and a refreshing sense of assuredness in the range of his voice…He understands that poems are social occasions; that they find new life once given over to the air. And there is air everywhere in this boundless book: in breath, in acsension, in song.”
—Joshuan Bennett, author of The Sobbing School

“There is a dexterity it takes to weave through the mundane and make it feel rad-ical, to break normality over itself until it is no longer something of easy comfort, and Olatunde Osinaike shows this off in his debut collection. Tender Headed deftly uses contemporary language as a form unto itself—a series of humming vignettes that move with a kinetic sharpness that rarely slow to catch their breath. At one point, Osinaike writes, ‘I made a mannerism out of faith,’ and it is clear that there is a longing for answers that will not come easy, birthed from questions many writ-ers wouldn’t have the fortification to ask. Osinaike’s confidence in the movement between styles, but the vulnerability in the lens he allows us to view the world through makes for a complicated negotiation between the brick/mortar of the language and serenity of his voice. Tender Headed is a pleading, a prayer shared with a stranger, a reluctant fist resting upon your shoulder that asks, demands, insists on your attention.”
—William Evans, author of We Inherit What the Fires Left

“The poems in Tender Headed span a variation of volume, tone, and pitch. They beg to answer the question of what it means to be a Black man not only surviving, but living: ‘How does one look for a fight when it is already in you?’ To the speaker, language is a tool of delight and discovery, weaving in and out of sonic and idiomatic play. And everything is biblical, from the barbershop to the gas station to Grandma’s house. Through praise and parables, spells and invention, Tender Headed challenges and captivates. It blooms beyond the page, strong in all its tenderness: ‘Oh I can be such a mess when the world lets me. Gorgeous / with sympathy.’”
—Diannely Antigua, author of Ugly Music, winner of the Whiting Award

“The push-and-pull of form in this debut from Osinaike is such an impressive balance, spanning from reverent prose pieces to something like the interesting construction of Etymology of Simp; with its two columns, verses square and stark, inviting the reader to confuse the line appropriately for the coming-of-age narrative it presents. Selected by Camille Rankine for the National Poetry Series, this collection simmers thoughtfully through considerations of Black masculinity and boyhood, introspective and precise in its critical eye—but always tender, always earnest.”
The Millions


Now available for preorder. All preorders will ship on or before December 05, 2023.

The irony of transformation often is that we mistake it to have occurred long before it does. Tender Headed takes its time in asserting the realization that growth remains ever ahead of you. Examining the themes of Black identity, accountability, and narration, we encounter a series of revealing snapshots into the role language plays in chiseling possibility and its rigid command of depiction. Olatunde Osinaike’s startling debut sorts through the many-minded masks behind Black masculinity. At its center lies an inquiry about the puzzling nature of relationships, how ceaseless wonder can be in its challenge of a truth. In the name of music and self-identity, the speaker weaves their way through fault and how it amends Black life in America.

This is demonstrated best in how the demanding, yet vulnerable tone for the collection is set in “Men Like Me,” its restless opening poem. Here, we find the speaker reciting a chronicle of generational neglect from men that became him also. Earnest and sharp, there is a beauty in seeing a poet not shy away from both the melancholy and resolve of rescripting their path while cherishing their steps and missteps along the way. This collection is a panel aching of fathers, sons, uncles, grandfathers, all of whom would do well to join in and confront shared privileges that are typically curtailed or altogether avoided in conversation. Tender Headed entrusts the heart to be a compass, insisting on a journey unto itself and a melodic detour toward tenderness precise with its own footing.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Published: 12/5/23
  • IBSN: 9781636141411
  • e-IBSN: 9781636141428


Originally from the West Side of Chicago, Olatunde Osinaike is a Nigerian American poet and software developer. He is the winner of the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, a Frontier Poetry Industry Prize, and honorable mention for the Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Award in Poetry. His work has appeared in Best New Poets, New Poetry from the Midwest, Kweli Journal, Wildness, Southeast Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Atlanta.

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