I'd appreciate any insight into my letters of recommendation quandary. I'm applying to MFAs--for poetry--and most programs want 3 letters. How do I decide among the following options:
--undergraduate professor from my first and only two years as an English major; we've stayed in touch, but he hasn't taught me in 12 years.
--graduate professor from my Master of Social Work program, completed 5 years ago
--supervisor from my current social science research job, held for 5 years
--poetry workshop teacher who has an MFA but no college teaching experience; my tenure in his workshop--2 years
--new poetry workshop teacher; PhD in Lit. and lots of college teaching gigs; my tenure in his workshop--3 months
I'd go with the undergraduate and the graduate profs. Then I'd pick the one workshop instructor who could talk about my work and my commitment to writing with the most enthusiasm.
In the post "Letters of recommendation (apart from profs)" are listed some things that Tom says your recommenders should be able to speak to; you may want to check those out and pick the best people who can speak to them. I'd say the poetry workshop teacher who you've worked with for 2 years is the best candidate because you've worked with him decently long enough and the work has been recent. If I were you the person I'd worked with for only 3 months would be the last one I'd choose.
The undergrad and graduate professors and the current employer I'd rank in between these two. The current employer is good because you're interacting with him at present and have been for years, and he can testify to your work ethic; but you also need people who can talk about you in an academic setting, i.e. the two professors: one more recent but in a field farther from CW, one less recent but in a field very close to CW. Though the choice is ultimately yours and you know these people better than I do, I'd pick the 2-year poetry workshop teacher that you have now, plus (a) one professor and the employer OR (b) both professors.