The poet Christopher Reid has been awarded the Costa Book of the Year for a tribute to his late wife.
In a surprise decision, his collection A Scattering was voted the winning book by the panel of judges.
Colm Tóibín, the Irish author, had been widely tipped to walk away with the £30,000 prize for his novel Brooklyn, the tale of a young Irish immigrant torn between New York and her homeland.
It was the 6/4 favourite according to William Hill. A Scattering was a distant second at 5/2.
But the 54-year-old Irishman was denied a major literary prize again, having been shortlisted but overlooked for the Man Booker prize twice before.
Josephine Hart, the author of Damage, who chaired the judging panel, described A Scattering as "austere and beautiful and moving".
She said: "We regard it as a master work by a man who for sad reasons has met artistically his moment."
He had managed to take his personal tragedy and make it universal, she explained.
"We would immediately give it to friends, whether they were suffering [bereavement] or not."
Reid's wife Lucinda Gane, an actress who starred in Grange Hill in the 1980s, died in October 2005 of cancer.
Reid, 60, professor of creative writing at Hull University, who edited the book The Letters of Ted Hughes, started writing his poems about her as the illness took hold.
He wrote others after she had died, reflecting on his loss and her absence. They had been married almost 30 years.
It is the first time that a poet has won the award since 1999, when Seamus Heaney won it (as the Whitbread, under the guise of its previous sponsor) for Beowulf.
Since the prize began in 1985 it has been won by poets of six occasions - twice by Heaney, who also won it for Spirit Level in 1996; twice by Ted Hughes (Birthday Letters in 1998 and Tales from Ovid in 1997); once by Douglas Dunn (Elegies in 1985) and now by Reid.
A Scattering was named as the Costa Poetry Book of the Year earlier this month. The overall winner is chosen from the five categories in the awards: poetry, novel, first novel, biography, and children's novel.
Brooklyn won best novel; Beauty by Rapheal Selbourne won the first novel award; The Strangest Man by Graham Farmelo won the biography award and The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness won the children's book award.