In Came the lightning, Olivia discusses their connection to nature, their similar childhoods, her adaptation to her world of celebrities and her near-assassination in 1999, when a delusional man broke into their house and stabbed George. (Olivia fought back with a poker and a table lamp.) She candidly deals with George’s 2001 death from lung cancer and the grief that ravaged her.
After mourning in isolation, Olivia assumed her husband’s role as one of five directors of Apple Corps, controlling the Beatles empire. She wrote a book to accompany the Scorsese documentary, produced the Concert for George stars’ tribute, oversaw its catalog of recordings and reissue campaigns, and produced films, documentaries and box sets. She remains a tireless philanthropist and now, to her surprise, she says, she is a poet. She talks with AARP about falling in love with George, competing in a mad Beatles world, and finding solace in the garden in the face of tremendous heartbreak.
Why did you choose to express your memories of George in verse?
I didn’t really choose it. He chose me. Around 2018, I had an emotional turmoil and a neurologist friend said to me, “You should read poetry for three days. That’s what I prescribe. It triggered my brain. I started writing, and things came out as poetry. I felt terrified because I didn’t really know the rules or the cadence. Then I thought I could do an autobiography, but everyone around me did. It’s much deeper, much more personal.
Did you always plan to write about George?
I never planned to do this. I sometimes thought, All of us [Beatles] girls have so many stories, wouldn’t it be fun if we all wrote chapters? I did a lot of archiving and research, and I thought, Man I’m next. What would I see on my last trip on this Friar Park route? In 2018, I sat late, thinking of a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Here is a wound that will never heal, I know it.” It started him.