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The Newfoundland in Art & Literature

Emily Dickinson

“You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog as large as myself that my father bought me. They are better than human beings, because they know but do not tell.”

Emily Dickinson, responding to Thomas Wentworth Higginson question in a letter, April 25, 1862:
“Who are your companions?” She became a recluse when only 32, preferring her Newfoundland’s company to that of humans.

Newf Stars in A Television Movie - adapted from Newf Tide Fall 1985

"Voices & Visions"

dickinson1"Emily" (Actress Mary Lane), Bonny and myself getting set up for a drawing room scene - photo courtesy - NY Center for Visual History

The American poet Emily Dickinson may have never visited upstate New York, however, that area will depict her home in a Public Broadcasting System show about her life and work.
The show is one part of a 13-part series called "Visions and Voices," focusing on the work of the American poets. The series, which will include Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot and Emily Dickinson, among others, is to be aired in the 1986 season.

Approximately a decade of the poet's life was spent in a rather solitary style with her Newfoundland dog, Carlo. Aotea's Bonnavista Beauty, called Bonny and owned by Gillian McArthur, will play the part of Carlo in the hour long movie.
Actually, the reclusive poet never strayed far from her home in Amherst, Massachusetts. The producers, however, quickly realized that the modern-day Amherst had changed so much that the authenticity was lost. Even the old home was modernized on the advice of Brockport College theater design professor Richard Montgomery, the producers decided that Leroy, Caledonia and the outskirts of Rochester were the best setting for 19th century Amherst.

dickinson2"Emily" and Bonny at the piano - photo courtesy - NY Center for Visual History

A male dog was first considered for the part of Carlo. However, since some of the shooting would take place in the Leroy Historical House, it was decided at the last minute that a female would be more suited near the brocades and antiques.
The day before the shooting, the director, Veronica Young, and her assistant came out to see if any of my Newfoundlands could play the part. When they were introduced to Bonny, they were pleased with her attitude and personality. I was told that she must be quiet on the set since there would be people, lights and camera action. I thought she would perform nicely because she is easy going and has been recently shown in competition. After a little basic obedience practice and grooming, we were all set to play the part of Carlo.
I was a little apprehensive at first, wondering if Bonny would obey hand signals and look enthusiastic about meeting a person whom she had never met. After the first day, it seemed that everything would be fine. Bonny performed well with Emily in front of the camera. Shots were taken in the drawing room, bedroom and library.
Probably the most difficult shot was to get Bonny to run out of the house, down the path to a horse and carriage where she was expected to greet Emily who had just returned from a long trip. We must have used a bag full of liver treats that day!
Getting the dog to stay under the piano while Emily was playing it was also tricky. This problem was solved by hiding me under the piano, where I occupied Bonny with another bag full of liver treats.
It was all an incredibly interesting three days. The crew spoiled Bonny with food and petting. How she will behave when her name appears in the credits, is open to debate! Since PBS is always on a low budget, there was little finance except for paying for gas expenses. Working with the crew on the movie was great fun.
bonnie Bonny needs one more point to complete her championship. However, that may have to wait because puppies are expected in mid-September. She has been line bred to her grandsire, Ch. Tuckamore's Dutch of Pouch Cove. The film crew tells me that she is now their mascot and that her photo is hanging on the cutting room wall. They would like to be informed about her progress.
Be watching for Emily and Carlo in "Visions and Voices" sometime in '86.

A Literary Newf!

reprinted from Newf Tide Spring 1981

The recent publication of Acts of Light. a book of 80 of Emily Dickinson's poems (out of 1,775 discovered after her death) is an appreciation by Jane Langton with paintings and drawings by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. The book is the product of three years of research.

Emily Dickinson. the reclusive poet who locked herself in her room and saw only selected adult visitors, has come into her own, ninety-five years after her death, with the resurging interest in women writers. During her life, no one saw her as a poet. Victorian editors "corrected" her rhymes, her disuse of titles and her starkly original metaphors.

brown sugar

Edenglen's Brown Sugar


How interesting that one of her closest companions was a Newfoundland named Carlo.

Nancy Ekholm Burkert, in her research, was referred to Bob and Jean Ouandt of Libertyville, Illinois, whose Newf, Edenglen's Brown Sugar, posed for Burkert's painting of Carlo at the foot of Emily's bed. Brown Sugar was a true artist's model, in spite of his zest for life, sitting still for two solid hours (quite a feat for even an experienced model!).

The painting is entitled "Carlo Dreams." Burkert's paintings, instead of illustrations to the poems, are a response to Emily's world seen through the poetry.

It is a credit, indeed, to the breed that a poet who so treasured her privacy chose to share it with a Newfoundland whose sensitivity probably matched her own. "




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I started Early -- Took my Dog -- by Emily Dickinson

I started Early -- Took my Dog --
And visited the Sea --
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me --

And Frigates -- in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands --
Presuming Me to be a Mouse --
Aground -- upon the Sands --

But no Man moved Me -- till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe --
And past my Apron -- and my Belt --
And past my Bodice -- too --

And made as He would eat me up --
As wholly as a Dew
Upon a Dandelion's Sleeve --
And then -- I started -- too --

And He -- He followed -- close behind --
I felt his Silver Heel
Upon my Ankle -- Then my Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl --

Until We met the Solid Town --
No One He seemed to know --
And bowing -- with a Mighty look --
At me -- The Sea withdrew --

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