In this thesis I argue that poetry, for the South African poets and singers in exile in the period 1900–1990, was a highly symbolic agent which crossed the divide between verbal discourse and poetic form. Poetry embodied altruistic gestures and trusted encounters which became social agencies of change, reconciliation and hope due to historical exigencies, political imperatives and individual courage and sacrifices. By naming the condition of exile within literary representations of movement, travel and the diaspora, I am asking whether poetic representations of the South African exile validates a positioning of exiles‘ literary archives as a late modernist, ontological concern. I propose that this poetry, exilic poetry, intersects at all times with an altruistic intent that reinvigorates our ideas of humanism or humanisms. I consider the development and relevance of literary theories in South Africa and ruminate on the prose of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Paul Gilroy and Jacques Derrida in relation to the role of poetry in politics. By placing geo- and indeed bio-politics in our frame, we can comprehend the meaning of apartheid in terms of multiple philosophical positions which privilege the major disruptions, the main ― "isms" of our time: colonialism, humanism and the body politics that have arisen as a result of immense conflict. Apartheid was one such disruption, the after-effects of which are still new as South African histories are being torn apart and rewritten. Through all this, the poets talking to the people rewrote and wrote histories which we are still reading and writing. My thesis has considered whether there were specificities about South African exile which are revealed by looking at the relationship of poetry to exile. I have argued that these poems fall between the real and the imagined as trusted encounters, not as stories. Ultimately exiled writers and singers found the ecstasy of life in their poems or songs and in the fact of being alive, and in this sense they retained a sense of intense individuality despite their collective purpose. There is still much work to be done on the cultural mobility and transculturation that infuses these works with such a rich sense of altruistic, historical purpose.