Cowboys, Bob Dylan, John Keats, prayer and a nice beer are just a few of the loves of the University of Dallas English professor and alumnus, Dr. Kevin Saylor.
Saylor was abroad the past two years teaching in Rome. “It was fantastic, an incredible journey,” he said of teaching abroad. Over the time from spring 2021 to present, he went from lockdowns and being sequestered to his apartment to traveling to either “26 or 27 different countries.”
The fact that Saylor did not have an exact count of countries is a testament to the amount of traveling he did. So also, is the fact that, according to Saylor, the joke on campus among faculty was: “Do you even need an apartment? You’re never here.”
Saylor had trouble choosing a favorite place he visited but stated, “If I had the money to buy a house somewhere in Europe and spend a month there every year, I would probably go to the lake district in Northern England,” where British Romantic poet William Wordsworth lived and grew up.
He also unabashedly stated that he planned his trips around “churches, art museums and beer bars.” As far as traveling within the US, Saylor loves visiting New Orleans, but said, “If I never go to Las Vegas again, I would be quite content.”
It is mystifying to think that on top of teaching, traveling, drinking beer and learning just enough Italian to pass an Italian driver’s exam Saylor had time to work on a project of his that he is hoping to finish and publish: a book of personal narratives about how prayer has helped him through his hardest times.
Summing up the project Saylor stated that it was primarily focused on “telling stories about my life, but always with an eye towards the role that prayer plays in life and has played in my life in particular.” This project comes with the additional struggle of strangeness of writing about yourself. “It’s a little embarrassing even to say I’m writing about myself, who cares?” Saylor joked.
He hopes the book will help guide others, though it is not intended to be a didactic work. “I’ve been through some things that only prayer could have helped me through,” he said. “If I can help people who are going through some things that I’ve gone through, then it’s worthwhile.” The current proposed title is, “Pray, Trust, Accept.”
Saylor went to Rome as an undergraduate at UD in the spring of 1991. It was this semester that he decided to declare an English major. He often encourages students to have the Rome experience as well, telling them: “Do what you have to do to go to Rome. You need to go. It’s a life-changing experience.”
Saylor has been consistently teaching at UD since the spring of 2004; next year will be his 20th year teaching at the university, and this year marks his 30th year since graduating with his BA in 1993.
Saylor is a fixture in Lit Trad I and II, both of which he is teaching this semester. He enjoys returning to “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” saying, “Homer is my friend.”
Aside from Lit Trad, Saylor once taught a Special Topic course on his Junior Poet subject, John Keats, who remains his favorite poet to this date, and is a course he would like to teach again. Taking JPo is really what made him realize he wanted to pursue teaching. After taking the course he decided, “This is how I wanna spend my time, reading and studying poetry.”
He also once taught a special topic course on song lyric, another passion of his. Saylor’s favorite artist is Bob Dylan, who he has seen in concert “40 or 50 times.” During his two years abroad, he saw him three times in concert in Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris.
When asked of his other favorite musicians, Saylor said he has hundreds, but continued saying, “My favorite musical artist not named Bob Dylan is Van Morrison, and my favorite lyricist not named Bob Dylan is Townes Van Zandt.” His dog is even named “Townes” after the artist. He also had a dog named “Cash” after Johnny Cash who has now gone to “great doggy heaven,” he said.
Though a fan of both song lyric and poetry, he admits to there being some significant differences. Song lyrics are more akin to a play to him in that they require more collaboration.
Additionally, they are given over to performers, as plays are given over to actors, who can change the meaning of the song entirely based on their performance. He cited Otis Redding’s “Respect” which became a feminist anthem when sung by Aretha Franklin, as an example.
“Song lyrics come alive in the voice of the singer, and can mean different things when sung by different people,” Saylor said. This idea is also similar to poetry; he cited Tennyson’s “Ulysses” as an example of delivery completely changing the interpretation of a poem.
Saylor grew up in Indiana about an hour or so from Chicago. He heard about UD through their mailing system, and along with the idea of going to Rome, the Core curriculum also drew him to UD. Additionally, the city of Dallas had a certain appeal to him; “It didn’t hurt that it was in Dallas, TX,” he said.
“I was already a Dallas Cowboys fan,” Saylor said, “and I grew up watching westerns with my grandfather, and, you know, cowboys, they were from Texas.” Irving used to be home to the old Cowboys’ stadium and Saylor was overall eager to read and learn from classical literature.
You may have heard people talk of the “UD bubble.” Saylor calls this, “largely a good thing,” in that we have our own unique culture at UD. He also praised the professors saying, “UD has been and still is blessed with an abundance of good teachers.” He said UD only works “because we have great students here.”
Saylor is still adjusting to life on the Irving campus, and said that he hasn’t yet decided, but he may go back to his one-night-a-week side job bartending at the UD-alumnus owned Lamberti’s, a business investment of his.
On top of keeping an eye on his investment, Saylor called it a “fun job,” saying, “I like being behind the bar, because I like talking to people, interacting with people.”
If you are interested in making sure that Saylor does not end up “sleeping under a bridge 20 years from now,” maybe stop by the restaurant on your next night out.