Poet Sean O'Brien has been named as the winner of the 2007 TS Eliot prize for his poetry collection The Drowned Book.
The Drowned Book is O'Brien's sixth collection
The 55-year-old from Newcastle, who has won the Forward Poetry Prize a record three times, was presented with a cheque for £15,000 at a London gala.
He told the BBC that he was "totally taken aback" to win in such a very strong field.
Peter Porter, chair of judges, called O'Brien's work "fierce, funny and deeply melancholy".
Previous winners of the prestigious prize have included Seamus Heaney and Carol Ann Duffy.
Mr Porter also called O'Brien, who is a professor of creative writing at Newcastle University, "a major artist".
Speaking about the popularity of verse, O'Brien said: "We live in a prose world where poetry is an experience.
"People have to let themselves off the hook, absorb it, be with it and not expect to understand it," he added.
The Guardian referred to The Drowned Sea "as powerful, resonant and thought-provoking".
The collection, the newspaper added, came from "a formidable wordsmith at the height of his powers".
The TS Eliot Prize is organised by the Poetry Book Society, which was founded by Eliot in 1953.