A spate of resignations in 2011 left the society reeling, with Arts Council England (ACE) delaying payment of the society's grant over "concerns around governance, management and leadership" after members offered the society's board a motion of no confidence at an extraordinary general meeting in July. The following month the society's director, Judith Palmer, was reinstated to the post she left in May, in an attempt to bring stability back to an organisation which had previously been going from strength to strength.
Many reports suggested that a clash of personalities between Sampson and Palmer was at the root of the problem, despite vigorous denials from both sides. A statement from the society issued on 23 December 2011 attempted to draw a line under the issue, suggesting that "problems of governance were reported wrongly as purely a personal dispute", and looking forward to a future including "both Judith Palmer as director and Fiona Sampson as the editor of Poetry Review".
"Obviously terrible things happened to me last year," Sampson said. "It's no secret, because some of them happened in the Guardian. But I was absolutely delighted that the society – with whom I'm parting on very good and cheerful terms – made it absolutely clear that the allegations about me were completely untrue. They also apologised for the damage done to me, and stated that it was an issue of governance."
She was "absolutely thrilled" to be appointed as editor in 2005, particularly because "there was a proper equal-opportunities process, rather than a selection by nod and a wink which sometimes happens for that sort of thing". But she felt unable to continue after the furore unleashed on the internet last summer, which she felt amounted to cyberbullying.
"The police were involved," she continued. "There were death threats. Would you stay after that had happened to you? It's not that the society has done anything wrong, but no more … I'm not interested in that kind of mess and struggle."
It brings to an end a seven-year stewardship of the UK's premier poetry journal, which has seen the journal expand its horizons, combining an emphasis on championing new voices with the highest standards of literary excellence.
The poet Sean O'Brien saluted her achievement.
"Fiona Sampson restored and improved the fortunes of Poetry Review, re-establishing it as the leading UK poetry magazine and increasing its international status," he said. "While broad in her tastes and encouraging towards emergent writers, she showed exacting standards in poetry and criticism and had no time for parochialism. Her successors will have a difficult task in matching her achievements or the international scope of her interests, while many poets, critics and readers will lament her departure."
It's not yet clear what Sampson, who is one of the judges for the 2012 Griffin prize, will do next. "I'm keeping that slightly under wraps," she said, "because I don't want everything else I do contaminated by what's happened."
Meanwhile the process of rebuilding continues at the Poetry Society. ACE put the society's funding back on a normal footing last month, after the board had met a series of conditions for restoring good governance. With a guest editor to be announced for the summer issue later this week and the search for a permanent replacement due to start later this year, the society's director is looking to the future.
"Fiona's done a very good job on the Review for seven years," Palmer said. "We wish her well and look forward to seeing what a new editor will bring to the Review."