One of the most eye-catching displays at Winter Institute 2023 was a 40-foot-long, four-foot-tall plywood mural, leaned against a balcony wall of the Seattle Convention Center. Elegant, simple, and as heavy as a backyard shed, the mural conveyed a four-word sentiment in black letters with green accents on a white background: “i continue to continue.” The lowercase words are Lucille Clifton’s. The mural is by Myrna Keliher, founder of letterpress studio Expedition Press.

Ordinarily, Keliher is a maker of poetry broadsides, cards, and other paper goods. She founded Expedition Press in Kingston, Wash., in 2012 and now ships her work direct to buyers all over the world. (Although her studio is still in Kingston, she intends to expand and is “in the process of ‘petitioning the universe’ for 1,000 square feet of industrial space in south Seattle.”) Book lovers are her kind of people. “I’m strongly and primarily interested in working with independent bookstores,” she said, and she thinks of her prints as bookmarking favorite pieces. As one customer said, “I never knew I needed a forever-opened page.”

With indies in mind, Keliher has launched a limited wholesale line that enables her to produce quality prints at a higher volume and “fulfills the mission of getting people to read more poetry. I’ve created a standalone product that bookstores can sell as a sideline, and it lets people see poets’ names.” Her cards feature a poem and the author’s name on the front—current work includes Victoria Chang, Natalie Diaz, and Ada Limón—with the credit lines on the back. Before choosing a poem and seeking publisher permission to reprint, Keliher asks herself, “Do I have strong feelings about what I read? It has to be a powerful reading experience to carry me through the design process” of setting metal type and pulling proofs.

Clifton’s poem “i am not done yet,” which includes the line “I continue to continue,” had that resonance. Keliher encountered the poem in January 2020, when she joined Copper Canyon Press co-founder Tree Swenson on a visit to ceramicist Anne Hirondelle, whose retrospective exhibition was titled “Not Done Yet.” Keliher recalled, “As Tree and I left, I said, ‘That poem would fit a postcard format. Maybe as a surprise for Ann, I’ll call BOA Editions,’” Clifton’s publisher, for permission to reprint it. BOA publisher Peter Conners not only agreed but asked Keliher to print a full broadside too. She now offers prints of Clifton’s “i am not done yet” and “water sign woman.”

During pandemic lockdown and several medical emergencies, Keliher reflected on the phrase “i continue to continue, ” and set to work on the mural, calling upon her college experience as a house painter and constructing it in five 4x8’ sections. She contacted type designer Matthew Carter who designed the letters for it. "I gave him the design and dimensions, letters exactly bleeding off the edges, and he worked with the constraints I gave him,” she said. In the process of measuring the shapes to fit the panels, “I learned a lot about the letterforms,” she said. “What better way to study a master type designer’s work than paint their letterforms at that scale?”

By the time the piece was complete, it needed significant installation space. “Winter Institute was the first time I saw it all together,” Keliher said. But she doesn’t mind spending several years on a project when the words retain their potency. “That’s the thing about good poetry—there’s not a shelf life for it,” she said. The mural accomplishes at a generous scale what her cards and broadsides achieve at a quieter level. “If I can stop someone for a moment and get them to read a line or two of poetry,” said Keliher, “good work is happening.”

Keliher and Expedition Press’s next stop will be at AWP in Seattle, March 8-11.