Teaching

 

I teach creative writing, poetry writing, and composition/expository writing to undergraduates. I also teach and mentor in these areas as a freelance teaching artist.

Poetry

My approach is to start with where the poet is and work with the language at the level of sound and  syntax, and how that becomes the structure of the poem. I believe in experimentation, play, joy, and rigor in the creative process. I offer not only feedback on themes and craft elements that are working in a poem, but also offer writing assignments to further explore these qualities and see where they might lead.

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What Students Say

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"I was recently looking through my journal that I used during your class- oh how you inspired and encouraged me! Thank you for that, and please know there is a small poet and his cat hiding in Brooklyn and feeling thankful for you."

— Maxwell Q., Advanced Poetry Workshop Alum

 

 

"This professor is so passionate about creative writing along with knowledgeable about her material. She has an amazing heart in which she truly cares for her students. Awesome class & prof!"

— Introduction to Creative Writing Alum

"Ellen has been one of those most inspirational, intelligent and thoughtful instructors I've ever had."

— Advanced Poetry Workshop Alum

"Ellen is hands down one of the best professors at Hunter! I love the way she structured the course. Her feedback on writing prompts is most helpful; it's kind, but honest and constructive. I especially love workshop and the opportunity to build relationships with my classmates - a rarity at Hunter. I never thought I would ever appreciate poetry, but I love it now! Thank you so, so much for the wonderful semester of discovery and creativity."

— Introduction to Creative Writing Alum

 

Manuscript 

Consultation

I have worked with many poets in re-ordering their manuscripts into their final, published form. It is my great joy to do this work, to examine the themes that the work is exploring and offer feedback on order of poems, sections (or not), poem titles for book unity, assignments for new poems that may need to be written.

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“Ellen Kombiyil is a meticulous poetry editor who also sees the forest for the trees. When we were working on my book of poems, Geography of Tongues, I was really vexed by the order of my manuscript. Ellen suggested we lay out the poems on my living room floor and move them around until it felt like they were in the right place. That aerial view really helped in shaping the arc of my book. We then read all the poems aloud, making sure they all flowed well. Ellen also suggested I add a poem that I had discarded because she felt it was powerful and fit in with the themes of the book. I'm so glad I did, as that poem got a lot of love at readings/other events. I share all of this to illustrate how hands-on Ellen is, and that she will do whatever it takes to help make your manuscript the best and strongest it can be. I highly recommend her!”

 

— Shikha Malaviya

What Poets Say

“Ellen is a wise, perceptive editor whose insights at every level made my book so much better. Whether wrangling the large conceptual framework of the manuscript, considering the sequencing of poems, or reworking the inner mechanisms of a line, she has an uncanny way of getting right to the core of things. She coaxes growth with all the right questions and is generous with her mind-expanding suggestions, while always centering the poet’s own voice and judgment.”

 

— Minal Hajatwala

 

Composition

I work with high school students writing their college admission essays, and writers at all levels in their essays and scholarly projects. I am highly skilled at asking questions of the text and asking for more, richer, or different types of evidence. I also encourage writers to use their own voice in exposition and to always relate their writing to some personal stake they have either for themselves or the larger society. My freshmen undergraduates have won consecutive first prize for the LeClerc Award for Best Research Paper, 100-level category, Hunter College, Fall 2018 and Fall 2019.

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What Students Say

"Ellen did a wonderful job, carefully reviewing and providing helpful and insightful feedback for my college personal statement. The suggestions helped me better organize and structure the essay. Her feedback allowed me to express myself with greater coherence and impact."

— Ranesh K., college applicant 

"Professor Kombiyil is one of the best english teachers I have ever had. I truly feel that my writing has improved a tremendous amount as a result of her class!"

— Expository Writing Student

"I've learned so much about my own writing style, how to critique my writing, and what I can improve on. I'm so glad I got to know her and learn from her. What a great human!!!!"

— Expository Writing Student

"Thank you for the kindness and respect you have towards all your students! You where always so understanding to our challenges and doubts."

— Expository Writing Student